Minister Eamon Ó Cuív (pictured) has an unfortunate penchant for putting his foot in it. His grandfather’s oft quoted policy of simply looking into his own heart when determining the will of the Irish people seems not to have survived the generation jump, if Dev Óg’s visit to Enniscrone a month ago is anything to go by.
Mr Ó Cuív came to west Sligo to effectively ‘pull the plug’ on Moy Valley Resources, one of the most successful rural development companies in the history of the state, and acknowledged throughout Europe as the ideal to which others should aspire. For nearly twenty years, Moy Valley - with its Kiltimagh equivalent - has initiated and implemented a range of measures which, crossing the county boundary into west Sligo, has changed the face of the region.
Why Minister Ó Cuív wants to tamper with a system which is running so well and effectively is anybody’s guess. His decision to scrap the structures which have delivered Leader, the LDP and the Rural Social Schemes makes no sense. These are structures which have been fine-tuned over the years to a point where they are perfectly geared to local needs and responsive to local conditions.
The Minister should tread more warily. In dismantling bodies like Moy Valley and, presumably others like South Mayo Leader and Kiltimagh IRD, he is not just trying to reinvent the wheel, he is also in danger of jettisoning the communal goodwill, the priceless voluntary input, the hours of unpaid service given by so many, the whole spirit of community which have been prey to the success of these organisations.
It’s not the first time for Mr Ó Cuív to do the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong place. If he has a sense of mission deep in his heart, scrapping Moy Valley Resources is hardly the way to go about it.
Risking the backlash of an angry and bitter and disillusioned rural community six months before a General Election hardly makes for much sense.
The wisdom of the bench
In a week when road deaths dominated the news, the antics of some of the learned dispensers of justice must have caused apoplexy in the Road Safety Authority.
A judge at Donegal district court ruled that a nineteen year old, caught driving a BMW at 122 mph (no, not a misprint, one hundred and twenty two miles an hour) should not have been charged with dangerous driving. The correct charge should have been one of speeding. But the judge, in his wisdom, threw out the charge.
The prosecuting garda tried to convince his honour that 122 mph with four passengers on board would, in the view of most normal people, amount to dangerous driving.
“I’ve been eight years in the traffic corps and I’ve seen speed on the road, I considered it to be dangerous driving”, he said.
But Judge McVeigh was having none of it. It was simply a speed factor, nothing more, he said. The judge pointed out ‘that nobody had to jump out of the driver’s way’. Next case, please.
A founding father remembered
The Irish State was born into turbulent times. the fledgling democracy was a fragile one. The men - for they were mainly men - charged with maintaining order and stability and leadership had to be of tough fibre and strong will.
Just how tough and strong willed is evident from the work of master biographer, Anthony Jordan, whose “WT Cosgrave, Founder of Modern Ireland” has just been published by Westport Books.
Principled and teak tough, Cosgrave was leader of the new Irish Free State from 1922 to 1932, upon which the orderly transfer of power to de Valera remains a proud testimony to Cosgrave’s respect for the rule of democracy.
He led a new country which was finding its feet, which had to work out its own relationship with the Catholic Church (of which he was a devout and conservative member), and whose dealings with the now isolated Protestant minority came under close scrutiny from England.
Cosgrave was adamant that, while he would take advice from the church on matters of spiritual guidance, he was clear that the business of state was the responsibility of politicians. It was a thin line which he walked with admirable dexterity.
His unyielding stance against those who he saw as threatening the existence of the infant state is legendary.
These were people who he had campaigned shoulder to shoulder with for Irish freedom; now, he was at the head of an independent state which was plunged into the tragedy of a civil war which neither side could ever have wished for. Where the security of the state was concerned, he would not budge.
Requested by his close friend, Archbishop Byrne of Dublin, to release from Mountjoy Jail the hunger striker, Mary McSweeney in November 1922, he turned him down.
“If she persists in her present indefensible attitude until death, we may regret it, but she will have done so of her own volition,” said Cosgrave at the time.
A year later, and now with a general hunger strike on his hands, the Archbishop again appealed for leniency. Again, the reply was the same.
“We had this matter under consideration for the week and definitely came to the conclusion that we could not give way on it”, he wrote. “I believe each Minister would prefer to leave public life altogether than to yield”.
WT Cosgrave lived under threat of assassination, he faced down the gunmen, he refused to be talked down by the hierarchy or by the Papal Legate. He was, in every way, his own man, answerable only to the Irish people and the democratic mandate in which he so firmly believed.
When 1932 marked de Valera’s abandonment of the policy of strife and his embracing of the same democratic process, Cosgrave handed over the levers of power and retreated into private life.
The Newport Princess
There will be a warm welcome for the news that the first steps have been taken to erect a monument to the late Princess Grace of Monaco at her ancestral family home at Drimurla, Newport.
Mayo County Council members, Cllr Johnny Mee and Cllr Frank Chambers, have set the ball rolling with a proposal to go before the council, which is expected to win full approval. The erection of the monument would be a fitting tribute to one who captured the affection of the world but who had her own special fondness for the county of her roots.
Princess Grace’s grandfather, John Bernard Kelly, emigrated from Drimurla in the late nineteenth century to start a new life in Philadelphia. He was to meet with great success, a wealthy man who rose to the top of social and business life in his adopted city. His grand-daughter was destined to become one of the most elegant and famous stars of her era, before marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco.
She often returned to Newport and to a huge welcome from the Irish people, finally in 1976 purchasing the old cottage and the small farm where her grandfather was born and reared. Plans to build a holiday cottage for herself and her family were dashed when Grace met her death in a car crash six years later.
Now, in order to close the circle, Mayo County Council is being asked to honour the late Princess by way of a suitable monument.
The Grace Kelly journey will finally have reached its destination.
A life of three centuries
Cuba has long claimed to have the highest number of old people in the world. It has nearly three thousand people over a hundred years of age, and that is a country which spends just 5 per cent per head on health as is spent in the US.
Last May, Havana hosted the World Conference on Longevity, where Mercedes Nunez (102) sang songs; a sprightly couple (103 and 104) performed a waltz; the kitchen help, Amada Fernandez, was 101.
The real star, who lived in a town two hundred miles away, was too busy to show up. Benito Abragon, who had arrived in Cuba from Haiti so long ago that nobody could remember, couldn’t read or couldn’t tell the time. There was only one thing, he was sure of. His year of birth.
I was born in 1880”, he would say”, and I am the oldest person in the world”.
He had no moralistic talk about healthy living. He had smoked until he was 108, cigarettes being handed out cheaply in his rations as a sugar cane labourer. His diet was mostly sweet potato cooked in pork fat.
Benito never got to meet Castro. He died on October 11, aged 126, but with a distinction which is unlikely ever to be equalled.
Legal goldfields, not minefields
It’s probably as well to admit it at the start, jealousy will get us nowhere. And yet, and yet, it’s hard not to feel green as the runaway gravy trains of the various tribunals continue to hurtle down the tracks to their undefined destinations.
The latest revelation is that the various State inquiries and tribunals have clocked up costs of €230m in the last decade. The good news - if you’re a legal practitioner, that is - is that there is not the slightest sign of the finishing line.
Topping the list comes the Flood, now Mahon, planning tribunal, which has so far clocked up costs of €58m, and the meter still running. Not far behind came the Lindsay Tribunal into the contamination of blood products for haemophiliacs, which finished up with a price tag of €45m, and the stinging criticism of the affected parties ringing in its ears.
The Child Abuse Commission is still running strongly at €34m, the Morris Tribunal has so far cost €26m and, the best of all, the long-running Moriarty has run up bills of just over €25m. Like Agatha Christie’s “Mousetrap”, and now in its tenth year of performance, Moriarty seems set to go into the theatrical record books as the longest running show in town.
What do all of the tribunals have in common, other than that the public has grown heartily bored of their deliberations. No surprises here. The vast majority of the costs have been gobbled up in fees paid to barristers and solicitors either engaged by the enquiries themselves to work for them, or representing witnesses whose costs will in due time be recovered from the State.
Bonanza time for the legal profession, most of us would call it. But there are none who can be as po-faced as the bewigged occupants of the Law Library when the occasion requires it.
“It must be remembered”, as one gravely responded to media questions concerning the legal fees earned in the happy world of tribunal land, “there are men and women here who have dedicated their entire professional careers to the service of the tribunals, and to the exclusion of all other work”.
To which, as learned counsel might intone in the hush of the courtroom, the appropriate response must be “Indeed”.
Munnelly bats for Humbert
A clap on the back for that energetic young county councillor, Jarlath Munnelly of Killala - already noted as a man to mark for the future - who has taken up the cudgels on behalf of General Humbert.
As befits a man of the town where the torch of revolution was first flamed in 1798, Munnelly has placed a motion on the agenda of Mayo County Council calling on his colleagues to endorse a campaign to restore Humbert’s Irish revolution to its proper place in the pages of history.
More specifically, he is asking that Mayo County Council - in tandem with an increasing number of like minded - initiate a request to the French Government that Humbert’s Mayo campaign, and his rout of the British at Castlebar, be recorded for posterity on the walls of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
A man of a practical turn of mind, Munnelly is of the belief that the publicity so created would result in a huge tourism spin-off for North Mayo. While the cynical will say that the chances of success are more than slim, they would do well to note that Munnelly is a guy who, once he gets stuck into a project, won’t give up easily.