July 27, 2005

Ladies Day and other Fillies

Since I won't actuallly be going to the Races in Ballybrit, you're just going to have to make do with more pics from Omey.

Thursday is Ladies Day - on Omey, only one lady turned up in her finery, and duly collected the prize. There's be more competition tomorrow, and the weather will probably be more kind to those with big silly hats.

Supporters of the Rossport 5 protest outside the Radisson Hotel yesterday evening - Fianna Fail politicians were attending a Race Week function inside. Note that some of the signs bear the logo of Sinn Fein. While it will probably benefit the party to associate itself with a high-profile campaign in Mayo, I'm not sure that it will be as beneificial for the Rossport Five campaign to be associated with a particular party (particularly one that polarises opinion as much as Sinn Fein).

, , ,

Posted by Monasette at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2005


Guess who didn't back a winner at the races this evening? Ok, this is actually a scene from the open air show "Mother Courage and her Children in Purgatory" held in Fisheries Field the Sunday before last. And no, there weren't too many cheery moments in the show. I still haven't got around to posting a gallery of the event. Soon...soon...

, , ,

Posted by Monasette at 11:57 PM | Comments (1)

July 25, 2005

Galway Hookers

The hooker St. Katherine surges to victory during a race at the Roundstone Regatta, held over the weekend. It was a difficult choice: stand on the pier in the rain watching the hookers or retire to O'Dowds for a long late lunch. So I did both.

If you're down in Galway for the races and you've arrived at this post by googling for "Galway Hookers" , then you're probably a tad disappointed. I'm writing this to the background music of helicopters clattering to and from the Radisson Hotel, ferrying the glitterati from the racetrack to the bar. The Radisson has two helipads and even that is not enough this week. Oh the problem of where to park your helicopter - a man could have worse worries and still die happy...

P.S.There are some great shots of the Red Bull Air Race over at Rymus and Donncha's sites, though it looks like they didn't get the scorching weather we had for the Galway Air Show.

, , ,

Posted by Monasette at 08:48 PM | Comments (7)

July 24, 2005

So what the hell is going on in North Mayo?

A while back, a pilot working for Ryanair sought to have its CEO, Michael O'Leary and two other executives jailed for contempt of court. Of course it didn't happen, and the dispute was eventually settled after a couple of adjournements in the High Court. Such is the way when you have heavyweight legal expertise to fight your corner.

Five Mayo men have now spent a month in jail for defying a court order obtained by Shell to prevent them opposing preparation for pipe-laying work on their lands. On Thursday, the Minister for Marine and Natural Resources (and now responsible for the state contract with Shell), Noel Dempsey stated that there would be chaos if everybody ignored a court order in the way that five had done.

Forty-eight hours later, the same minister admitted that Shell had breached the terms of their planning permission (it is the Minister that grants the pipeline permission), and had begun working on the pipleline already. Shell have now stopped any further work on the pipeline...which is what the five men were trying to achieve in the first place.

There is a wider question. How could Shell obtain a court order to prevent people interfering with what has turned out to be an illegal activity? The Irish Independent reported on July 15th that

The original court order of April 4 last restrained a number of named defendants or anyone with notice from obstructing or interfering with entry by Shell E and P Ireland Ltd onto lands for the purposes of "preparation, construction and installation" of the pipeline and ancillary works.

The land in question belongs to the five men in prison, not Shell. And now it seems that Shell itself is in contempt of the planning process by actually building the pieline itself with permission. Will anyone from Shell appear before the courts? I doubt it. Will the five be released on Monday ? Who knows...

Colm Rapple, in an interview on 5-7 Live on July 14th, has his own theory as to why the pipeline is being built with a much higher capacity than any other similar pipeline in Europe. The Minister is about to give out more licences for exploration off the Mayo coast (presumably on the same give-away-for-nothing terms as the Shell ones). Shell's pipeline would be very useful for taking the gas from the other fields as well. The entire interview is worth listening to - it's in RealAudio.

It's interesting to see how the political parties are reacting to the events in Mayo. Jerry Crowley is the local independent TD and he has been the most vocal political supporter of the five men. Government deputies have, by and large, kept their heads down and have avoided any of the public rallies held for the jailed men. That's to be expected. But what about the opposition. Pearse Doherty is a rising start in Sinn Fein and polled second in the Connacht constituency in the European elections last year after the first count. However, he got almost no transfers and subsequently came fourth in the three seater, and I'm guessing most of his vote came from Donegal. He has become involved in the wider debate over the conditions of the next set of contracts and it will be interesting to see how it affects his political profile in Mayo as a result. As for the main opposition parties, they have been remarkably quiet.

Enda Kenny has been very cautious, and Pat Rabbitt equally so. Now, the reality is that there isn't much they can do to change the current situation, but the political reality is that, if roles were reversed, you'd have Fianna Fail politicans making blood-curdling speeches invoking 1798 and all that. The great advantage of being in oppostion is that you can pretty much say what you want. Maybe Enda and Pat are already thinking about when they are Taoiseach and Tanasite respectively (which is maybe just a little too confident). If these guys are this diffident in opposition, they're hardly going to be too radical in government.

, , ,

Posted by Monasette at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

Omey Races 2005

The Galway Arts festival is nearly over, and the citizens of Galway await the arrival of the Galway Races hordes next week (a bit like the monks in Clonmacnoise waiting for a visit from the Vikings). Anyone who couldn't wait to bet their house away on Monday could go to Omey Island, north of Clifden, for their fix on Saturday. It was all a bit like a Jack B Yeats painting, except with added curry chips and bouncy castles. Judge for yourself with this picture essay (ok, gallery with hastily typed captions).

, , ,

Posted by Monasette at 01:46 AM | Comments (2)

July 21, 2005

The Greening of Galway

The Labour Party ran a campaign last week to keep Eyre Square green. Townies, eh. ? If they want to make the square green again, just leave it alone. Already, the abandoned construction work in the square is reverting to nature. By the time the work begins again in October, it will be a jungle (and there'll be no shortage of wildlife once Race Week starts on Monday). Pat McDonagh has upped the ante by hanging a sign outside SuperMacs at the top of the Square (see below). Ironically, SuperMacs is located in the one part of the square that has been finished completely (and it's also where much of the wildlife go for fodder late at night).

A couple of pictures of the Eyre Square wilderness here and here.

, , ,

Posted by Monasette at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

July 20, 2005

Gulliver's detours

And he gave it for his opinion that, whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together. - Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

Photograph taken of grass (Creeping Soft-Grass [Holcus mollis], if you're asking) in the boggy woodland at Lilliput, Co. Westmeath (at the edge of Lough Ennell), while out walking with my father on Tuesday evening in the footsteps of Doctor Swift, who holidayed here three centuries ago.


Posted by Monasette at 01:43 PM | Comments (2)

July 18, 2005


Life guard keeps watch over Ballyvaughan Bay, Co. Clare. In the background, a tractor works a field on the Finavarra peninsula, and beyond that, the village of Barna shimmers in the heat across Galway Bay.


Posted by Monasette at 12:25 PM | Comments (1)


If the definition of a gentleman is someone who can play the accordion but doesn't, then what do you call a naked woman playing the accordion in a wet field in Galway? An artist, of course.

The heatwave in Galway ended with a deluge last night. Typically, it coincided with an outdoor performance of Mother Courage in Fisheries Field. I'll post more pictures and a full account later in the week (when I dry out).


Posted by Monasette at 11:07 AM | Comments (5)

July 15, 2005

Looking towards Seanadh Bhéara

Lillies in bloom in a stream that flows into Loch Ard Doire (Ardderry Lough), near Maam Cross in west Galway. The hill of Seanadh Bhéara (Shannavara) is in the background. Photo taken earlier this week.

, , ,

Posted by Monasette at 10:40 AM | Comments (2)


The final indignity. Not only have I served as starter, main course and dessert for horseflies for Connemara for the last week, but this fellow used the roof of my car to give his missus a damn good seeing to. And I was parked outside a church!

Is it just me or are there far more horseflies about this year than ever before. I've been out in Connemara over the last week, and each time, I've been attacked by swarms of the vicious little sods. I'm well used to horseflies from summers spent on the bog (now thankfully distant memories) but I don't recall the sheer numbers of them. I have an organic insecticide which has two noticable characteristics :- (a) it tingles like hell for the first ten minutes and (b) it smells bloody awful. I usually find that while I'm trying to spray it on, the horseflies get in about half a dozen sneaky bites. And I have a 100% record for getting at least one squirt into my eye, onto lens of the camera, or blinding a passerby.

You know that scene in Star Wars where the rebels fly into the Death Star to drop their bombs inside the shipo before escaping in the nick of time? Well, you might want to think about that when you're debating just how far up your leg (assuming you're wearing shorts, of course) you're going to spray the afore-mentioned tingling protection. My own experience has been that the Luke Skywalker of horseflies is alive and well in the Twelve Bens, and the Force is truly with him.

Feeding time - horseflies draw blood. On the plus side, when you're standing near a horse or donkey, the horseflies won't bother you at all.


Posted by Monasette at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2005


Tourists admire the view at Lough Inagh in Galway. The mountains are part of the Beanna Beola (Twelve Bens) range - Bencorr (left) and Bencorrbeg(right).

Last year on holidays in Italy, two tasks preceded every meal - where to find a tree to park under so the car wouldn't melt, and whether it was too hot to eat outside. I had to make the same decisions last week...in Letterfrack. There's nothing like an Irish heatwave.

It's been roasting since Sunday, as accurately predicted by the delightfully alluring weathergirls on TG4 (I'd swear that one of them read the weather wearing a catsuit one Saturday night. But I digress...).
The reaction of the general public has been predictable - everyone rushes outside to stare up at the new bright object in the sky - before a good number of them 'enjoy the sun' by sitting outside pubs all day and driving themselves daft with a heady mixture of sunstroke and alcohol.

Just as predictable has been the reaction of the media. The Ryan Tubridy Show dusted off an item that has been running every year since Marconi's time about the sight of funny old Irish people with red heads, scarlet necks and crimson legs. [You'd have thought that any show that replaces the Marion Finucane show would be, by definition, better. You'd be wrong, then. According to the Sunday Tribune, the choice was between Tubridy and Gareth O'Callaghan to host the show. which is a bit like asking a condemned man whether he'd like to be shot with a round bullet or a square one. Again, I digress]. Anyway, I have a different theory. It is the maroon sunbathers that deserve our praise, because clearly, they have only a passing, if briefly intense, relationship with the sun and it's wrinkle-enhancing tendencies. It's the ones with the all-over mahogany sheen that we should be stoning in the streets. This last week hasn't made any difference to them because they've been grilling themselves all year under sunbeds. Another decade or so, an entire generation of Irish women will be waddling around the streets like an army of raisins. So lets hear it for the Farmer's Tan!


Posted by Monasette at 01:31 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2005


There's an ass at one end of the camera. But which end? Photo taken yesterday outside the Lough Inagh Lodge hotel overlooking the Twelve Bens in Connemara.


Posted by Monasette at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2005

The Heather Blazing

This morning, there was an interview on Galway Bay FM with a fireman from the Galway Fire Service. They spent a long day yesterday fighting a blaze on the boggy scrubland between Casla and Ballynahown - they didn't finish until around 9.30 last night. The fire had spread to the roadside, and had surrounded the ESB electrical substation supplying Carraroe. As it happened, I was driving past the same spot a couple of hours later so I stopped for a look. As I was standing there, smoke began to drift up from a furze bush, and within a few minutes, flames began crackling from the undergrowth. I rang the Fire Brigade, and the fire tender passed me in Spiddle. So hopefully, the fire is out by this stage. Either that or there'll be a lot of sandwiches for tea in Carraroe this evening.


Posted by Monasette at 03:15 PM | Comments (1)

July 10, 2005

Modern Life is Rubbish

Every week or so, a pile of crushed metal grows on the docks in Galway - the metal detrius of life in the city and county. I'd like to think that the metal is recycled into buckles for the sandals of tree-huggers everywhere, but God knows what actually happens to it. All I know is that it gets loaded into a container ship and sails off every week. And the following week, there's another pile waiting...


Posted by Monasette at 12:58 AM | Comments (5)

July 07, 2005


Posted by Monasette at 10:56 PM | Comments (1)

July 06, 2005

Blood Suckers

The only good horsefly is a dead one - I hate them. Exquisitely sneaky, they creep up on you, find a nice juicy piece of exposed flesh, and administer a painful bite. It's only the females that do the bloodsucking, though male horseflies probably get blamed equally. Nothing like the human species, then.


Posted by Monasette at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2005


I once saw some Pathe newsreel fromt the early Sixties of the zinc and lead mines at Tynagh, Co Galway (near Loughrea). The locals were smelting the ore in buckets over open fires. Within a decade, Tynagh would become the biggest lead and zinc mine in Europe, and in another decade , it would be closed, having exhausted the land in all ways possible. Today, a shiny new power station is taking form on the site, which had lain derelict for almost 20 years - it is one of the two new power stations under construction due to deregulation of the power industry in Ireland.

The generating equipment for the power station arrives by container ship into Galway harbour, usually at weekends. When the city parties late into Saturday night, long ungainly convoys of trucks snake their way out to Tynagh,. As they leave the harbour, they pass another relic of the mining days - the spherical 'hanger' on the docks that used to store the processed ore, ready for export to the rest of Europe. It's finally to be demolished, to be replaced by yet more offices and industrial units, just like nearly every other square foot of Galway. At least these ones will have a great view.

At least one resident of the neighbouring apartments is going to miss the old shed...


Posted by Monasette at 11:05 PM | Comments (1)

July 04, 2005

Like Deja Vu all over again

I was driving along the long lonely road from Beltra to Bellacorrick a couple of months ago when I spotted a clump of bog cotton. On impulse, I stopped to take a picture. As I was strode aross the peat to take the shot, I realized that I had stopped to take a similar picture in exactly the same spot nearly two years ago. And just like the last time, I nearly went to my arse in the bog walking back to the road. Some things never change.


Posted by Monasette at 09:36 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2005

Along came a spider

A specimen of the snappily-titled tetragnatha extensa slurping droplets of water off it's web. Photo taken in woodland at Derrydonnell Beg, just outside Galway city yesterday morning, before the dew had risen. The spider is a couple of centimetres long (including those spindly legs).


Posted by Monasette at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

Thud !

After various problems, the re-enactment of the Alcock and Brown transatlantic flight took place over the course of Saturday night and most of today. They landed in west Galway this evening.


Posted by Monasette at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

The Rossport Five

Last Chance to See...? Broadhaven - the route of the Shell pipeline.

I have a sneaking feeling that the concept of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) would be the subject of more debate in the Irish media if a couple of streets on Dublin's southside had been marked for demolition during the Luas construction. As it is, no-one seems too bothered when it's the odd farmer who'll have his farm tarmaced over for a motorway. Sure, what harm? Isn't it progress?

As the Irish Information of Public Services website states,

The compulsory acquisition of land takes place in Ireland to allow a public infrastructure project to go ahead for the common good. The most widely discussed applications of this refer to road improvement schemes and the LUAS project in Dublin.

A CPO is a powerful tool [they were actually introduced in the 1750s, though for most Irish people at the time, a CPO usually wasn't required or sought to remove them from their land]. When an "Authorising Agency" decides that they want your land, you can appeal, but that means a trip to the High Court. If you lose, you pay the legal costs of both sides. Now, the government can decide what is in the National Interest and can therefore be subjected to a CPO. Roads usually fall under that category, as did the gas distribution pipeline project still winding its way around the country. Strangely enough, the government decided not to apply a CPO to the purchase of the site for a new prison in north Dublin earlier this year, instead choosing to pay massively over the odds for land zoned as agricultural. Neither are they applied to telecoms masts, wind farms or even incinerators (far better for the politicians that An Bord Pleanala take the heat for those projects, I guess)

Five men (Micheál O Seighin, Willie Corduff, Phillip McGrath, Brendan Philbin and Vinent McGrath) in Mayo are in jail since last week because of a CPO. Shell want to build a pipeline across their land - they have already signed up half of the landowners but the Rossport Five do not want the pipeline laid across their land. However, Shell do not yet have permission to actually lay the pipeline - the Government hasn't approved it yet - so they have managed to have five landowners jailed for opposing an unapproved construction on their own land. Good old Shell, eh?

As I mentioned two years ago, Shell originally didn't even get permission for the pumping station (the pipeline will feed it). As Lorna Siggins described in Saturday's Irish Times, the An Bord Pleanala inspector ruled against the plan, but was over-ruled by his Board. Even the current Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources , Noel Dempsey , has accepted that the onshore pipeline is 'without precedent in Europe'. That is because Shell will pump the gas at many times the pressure that would be normal for an onshore pipeline [this is the heart of the landowners' objection - that such a high-pressure pipeline massively increases the risks of rupture, and the consequences if one occurs]. Shell are doing this because (a) it is much cheaper than building an offshore pumping station (which would then pump the gas onshore at a much lower pressure) and (b) they were let.

The irony is, as local independent TD Jerry Crowley has often pointed out, Shell have a tax break from the government allowing them to write off all capital costs against their tax bill (which admittedly won't be so high anyway thanks to another tax break). Shell won't incur a single penny extra cost to their bottom line by building their pumping station offshore - presumably, they just couldn't be bothered.

Any hope that the government might intervene would seem in vain. Galway West's own Frank Fahey (former Marine Minister) criticised objectors to the pipeline, accusing them of holding up progress - funnily enough, Frank is not half as trenchant about objectors in his own constituency against the plan to build an incinerator for the county. Frank was the minister who blithely assured the public that the west would benefit from the gas, when no such plan existed. Frank, if Shell decide to build a hot air pipeline, we'll give you a call.

On Wednesday, the High Court will consider the case of the five men. They have been promised a long stretch if they don't promise to allow Shell on their land (Judges really take umbrage when someone defies one of their court orders). Given the crowded nature of our prison system, it would be an interesting exercise for a journalist to find out what five criminals got early release to accommodate the five Mayomen. One inmate that they won't get to meet (because he got out a month ago) is good old Ray Burke. And what does he have to do with it? T'was the bold Ray that signed the deal with the oil company on the first place…


Posted by Monasette at 10:47 PM | Comments (13)

July 02, 2005

Feeding the beast, Part I

"God, I'd love a good crêpe right now!", exclaimed the man standing outside O'Brien's newsagent last Saturday. I did a double take. Thank God, it was a tourist (the same statement in a Galway accent has a completely different meaning). O'Brien's is my first stop on a Saturday morning in Shop St (on the way to breakfast). I often wonder about their clientele - I never see anyone buy a copy of any of their five tattoo magazines. They stock five types of tractor magazines and, nope, I haven't seen anyone buy any of them either.

The tractor enthusiasts are probably otherwise occupied. It's the silage season, y'see, and that means huge tractors with mowers, turners and an assortment of trailers revving at full speed along narrow country roads, trying to cut as much grass as possible in the shortest possible time. They're not just rushing to beat the weather - modern tractors cost as much as luxury cars, and most contractors work from dawn to darkness to squeeze as much business as possible into the day just to meet the repayments on their high-tech machines. You might want to consider that if you meet one on the road - they have neither the time nor the inclination to pull in (and they're probably bigger than you).

In fact, the great advantage of silage [in Ireland, particularly] is that rain isn't much on an issue at all. Making hay requires at least a week of constant sunshine, and farmers would have to wait for the dew to evaporate before they could bale it. Silage, on the other hand, is just fresh grass, and requires a lot less drying. Farmers used to pack the grass into 'pits' [basically a walled area into which the grass was dumped] - this required a dangerous manoeuvre of driving a tractor over and back across the increasing mound of grass to squeeze the air out (to prevent rotting) - every year, a few tractors would topple off pits, and a rolling two-ton lump of metal is a dangerous thing indeed. As the winter progressed, cattle would eat their way through the mound from one side. They would also generate a huge amount of slurry - hence the provision of a slatted shed - which allowed the slurry to fall through slats in the shed floor into a tank below. The farmer empties the shed by pumping the slurry into a tank and then spreading it as manure over fields.

Nowadays, many farmers bale their silage instead - as the grass is cut, it is gathered, squished into the shape of a giant cake and wrapped in plastic. (I've mentioned the science behind the wrapping before). The bales are easier to transport, and it means that cattle can be fed in the fields rather than in a shed (this is probably better for the environment too, since the slurry tends not to be so concentrated).The challenge for most farmers is to stop birds pecking holes in the plastic. Some farmers favour the Oliver Cromwell approach - stringing up a dead crow over the bales to discourage the others - but most farmers seem to paint designs on the bales (which also discourages others from stealing the bales too). There are a couple of approaches in this endeavour too (scroll down to the last picture here) but most go for simple designs, like the 'googly-eye' pictured above. But is it art?


Posted by Monasette at 12:58 AM | Comments (1)