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Can castlebar.ie continue to survive?

County View

Can castlebar.ie continue to survive?

Castlebar.ieWhat is generally regarded as one of the best community websites on the internet could be facing closure unless the people of Castlebar rally to its support.An impassioned plea from castlebar.ie may yet make the difference between a blank space on the internet or a renewed lease of life for a venture whose record of success over ten years of operation is acknowledged far and wide.
First set up in the heady days of the Information Age Town Competition – when Castlebar was unlucky enough to be pipped into second place by Ennis – the website has been in operation since 1997. A feature of the site is that, although it is operated on a totally voluntary basis, it is updated every single day, so giving it a freshness and topicality which even commercial websites would find difficult to match.
Nobody gets paid for either providing content for the site or for working on its updating and presentation, so that it is very much a labour of love for those involved, with a budget which leaves little for luxuries. Its lively and provocative bulletin board, although sailing perilously close to the libel wind on occasions, is a legendary feature of the site.
Castlebar.ie claims a phenomenal response of three million hits per month, mostly from Mayo people at home and abroad. But even a shoestring budget needs a revenue stream and now the operators have let it be known that, without funding, the site will be forced to close down in the near future. A sum of €8,000 is needed to help the site survive into 2007, which in the scheme of things does not seem to be such a tall order.
The site’s income to date comes from commercial advertising and the sale of services such as e-mail addresses. It is hoped that users of the page will volunteer to pay from as little as €10 or €20 for an e-mail address, with the funds going directly to castlebar.ie.
Given the advertising potential of such an effective medium as castlebar.ie, it seems hard to believe that the required revenue should be difficult to raise. And obviously, there should be enough regular visitors to the site to make up, by way of donation, the small sum needed to keep the site going.
To lose castlebar.ie now would be a retrograde step, not just for the operation itself, but for a town which likes to present itself as modern, progressive and up to speed.

Ballina loses Fleadh Bid
The news that Ballina has lost out in its bid to host the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil next year, in spite of the high hopes of Moy Valley CCE, is a major disappointment to the organisers and in particular to the business community.
The Fleadh Cheoil weekend is reputed to attract crowds of up to 150,000 to the town favoured with selection, with a resultant cash injection to the local economy of some €16 million.
The contenders for next year’s event were Tullamore and Ballina, with the Mayo town thought to have the advantage by virtue of the huge success enjoyed when the Fleadh came to Ballina in successive years – 1997 and 1998.
However, the final nod went to Tullamore for 2007 and, given the trend of repeating the choice of location in the following year, it will be 2009 before Ballina comes back into the running again.
Eamonn Walsh, PRO of the Moy Valley CCE, and ‘Mr Fleadh’ when it comes to driving the engine of a successful application, is quoted as saying that the lack of major sponsors was a key element in Ballina losing out at the final selection stage. To run the Fleadh, he says, now costs in the region of €450,500, so that solid financial backing is now an essential part of the bidding process.
If that is the case, then one can only assume that the Ballina commercial sector is either too complacent or too short-sighted to see an opportunity when it presents itself and all the more so considering the bonanza of 1997 and 1998.

Lessons in Realpolitik
If Professor Brendan Drumm of the HSE had any doubts about how the balance of power between politics and policies operates in this country, he got an early lesson over the past two weeks.
The professor went on record on Thursday last to pronounce that the HSE would not bow to pressure from politicians, lobby groups or vested interests in relation to controversial hospital refocus plans in the run-up to the General Election.
Mr Drumm may have meant what he said, but it was obvious that he hadn’t taken account of the fact that there is nothing more emotive than local hospital services, that local politicians are only too well aware that national policies cut no ice at local level, and that the retention of one’s Dáil seat is a more pressing priority than the ordered, logical development of national services.
And so it was that in Roscommon – where plans to withdraw services from the local hospital had been announced by the HSE -  the local Fianna Fáil TD, Michael Finneran, told a public protest meeting that he would not support the Government and would run as an independent if the plans were not reversed.
The threat had the desired effect, with Mr Finneran duly announcing that the HSE plans had been ‘scrapped’ – this after urgent consultation with Health Minister Mary Harney.
Meanwhile in Monaghan, the two local Fianna Fáil TDs – one a Junior Minister, the other the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil – assured a massive protest meeting that they would be opposing any move to downgrade Monaghan Hospital in a planned reorganisation.
The Mayor of Monaghan, who is also a member of Fianna Fáil, chaired the protest meeting and assured all present that he would no longer run for election under the party banner unless the current plans were abandoned.
Such is the way of the world, and whatever the good professor might think about his mission of streamlining and rationalising hospital services, he doesn’t have to face the electorate to get his job back. Politicians, to be successful, need to be more attuned to what is happening on their doorsteps rather than on the grand plan of paid strategists like the public servants who run the HSE.
And that is why – at least until after the next election – the closure of small hospitals and the downgrading of local hospitals will be put on the long finger.

Western Care’s loyal base
Forty years after its foundation it is a credit to Western Care that its network of voluntary collectors still play such a dedicated role in the organisation.
When Western Care was set up in 1966 by the late Michael J Egan, Tom Fallon and Johnny Mee there was little by way of State assistance to help give a start to the fledgling organisation. The only way open to the group to raise the funds required to give the services a start was the voluntary, countrywide, door-to-door collection. The idea was to target every one of the 30,000 households across the county; the aim, to raise the very ambitious sum of £30,000.
So well did that venture succeed, and so generous was the public response to a cause which immediately won the hearts of the public, that 40 years later the door-to-door collection remains central to the work of Western Care.
As Johnny Groden, Development Officer with Western Care, points out, the part played by the voluntary collectors is not confined to the task of raising funds. By making personal contact on the doorstep with householders and distributing the newsletter, the collectors help to raise awareness of the work of Western Care, while retaining the link with the community which gives the organisation its unique identity.
The annual door-to-door collection, augmented by various local fund-raising events, now comes to well over €200,000. It’s a truly staggering amount which says as much about the generosity of Mayo people as it does about the high regard in which Western Care is held.

Encouraging Mayo business
The collective weight of the seven Chambers of Commerce in Mayo is once again behind the Mayo Business Awards which, now in their fourth year, go from strength to strength.
A total of 12 awards will be presented at the presentation ceremony, hosted by Teresa O’Malley of Mid West Radio at the Broadhaven Hotel in Belmullet at the end of November.
All business in County Mayo, across all sectors of endeavour, are eligible to participate, but probably the most attractive aspect is that small, just-started businesses are able to compete on a level par with more established enterprises.
The awards, brainchild of the Mayo Chambers, also enjoy the full support of Chambers Ireland, of which Dara Calleary of Ballina is the Regional Development Executive. Entries close on October 6.

Remembering Old Bucko’s

It was an evening of nostalgia, memories and reminisce at Breaffy House Hotel when a hundred residents, and former residents, of two of Castlebar’s oldest streets reunited for a gala celebration.
Not many of the original dwellers now live on Linenhall Street and Tucker Street, but the tide of memories carried old friends from Canada, the UK, Spain and all parts of Ireland to renew links going back over the years.
Fr Mattie McNeely – this year celebrating the golden jubilee of his ordination – celebrated Mass at the Sacred Heart Hospital at the start of the reunion before the attendance retired to Breaffy House Hotel for a joy-filled meal and relaxation.
Warm memories were evoked as the decades and generations merged into one, not least of which were the youthful recollections of the streets’ – and the town’s – most legendary public house.
Bucko’s, as it was known even back then – but not referred to as such in the presence of its owners – was run by bachelor brothers Tommie, Luke and Walter Sheridan and their sister Bridie.
The Sheridan brothers, apart from being publicans, were also substantial land owners, raising cattle on their lands on the edge of the town.
From this combination of enterprises, there emerged a strange daily ritual where, each evening, the Sheridan milch cows would be herded from the land through the streets of the town, and through the pub door, out the back steps and into the milking shed.
There they would be kept overnight until, at opening time the next morning, they would be herded out in the reverse direction, through the pub and back out to the field.
Needless to say, this was before Health and Safety and hygiene regulations had been introduced. But customers had developed their own strategy of turning their backs on the animals, hunching over their pint glasses to protect against swishing tails or the occasional more serious incident. And never, ever, daring to complain to the proprietors about the health hazard.