North Atlantic Skyline, despatches from the west coast of Ireland


Wednesday 29th January 2003

Saucer of milk to lane three, please

Miaow! Olympic gold medalist Gabriela Szabo has been ordered to pay £3,000 (EUR4,500) to a rival she described as being ugly.The blonde Romanian was found guilty of defamation by a Bucharest court.

She had said in a Playboy magazine interview that Violeta Beclea-Szekely was not invited to compete in international meetings because she was ugly.


Beclea-Szekely said she was going to donate the money to a church or an orphanage (rather than, say, spend it in a hairdresser or beautician.) Even Paidí O Sé wouldn't say such things about his fellow Kerrymen

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Defence of the nation

A woman has been remanded in custody for bashing the nose of a US military jet in Shannon. Expect plenty of media commentary that she has already served more time than Tim Allen. Foreign Minister Brian Cowan assured the Dail this evening that security would be stepped up at Shannon - expect the Gardai's afternoon tea-break to be cancelled.

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False alarm?

The cold snap promised by Met Eireann has not materialised, which is a pity because a nice covering of snow might encourage me to go out and take a few photographs.On the other hand, I drive 70 miles a day so I won't miss the snow and ice too much.The continuing mild weather may ensure that the flower buds currently emerging from the soil might actually survive.
Tulips in Emperor Park, Tokyo, Japan, Easter 1995

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Tuesday 28th January 2003

Who would Jesus shoot?

An article in the New York Times today wonders if Jesus would be for or against an invasion of Iraq? I think Bob Dylan covered this ground a while back with God on his side..Mind you, the way things are heading in the Middle East, maybe Kinky Friedman summed it up best.

Pot, kettle, black?

Galway Sinn Fein are not a bit happy.

"When I was training to be solicitor we were led to believe that all were equal before the law and that justice not only had to be done but must be seen to be done,"

their spokesman (a solicitor) complained

Some sections of society still appear to be above the law

He was talking about the Allen case, in case you were wondering.

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Monday 27th January 2003

Cold Front

In seed time learn,in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.

It's going to be a chilly week, as north winds bring sleet and snow across the country. Temperatures as low as minus eleven degrees centigrade are predicted.

This will be the preferred mode of transport when the predicted snow banjaxes the Irish transport system

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Sunday 26th January 2003

Unsafe at any speed

Junior Minister Noel Tracey from East Galway landed himself in hot water this week. His driver was fined 500euro for doing 95mph in a 60 mph - the reason ? Noel was rushing to the Dail to make a speech. As Eddie Shaw from the National Safety Council pointed out, the stopping distance for a car at 95mph is about the length of a GAA pitch.Noel claimed not to notice that the car was pratically airborne - he was busy working on his speech. If the speech had such a calming effect on Noel as the car thundered through the countryside, it must have practically tranquillized the rest of the Dáil.

Never turn your back on a Friesen

Cows with guns. Hear it here.

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Sacre Bleu!!

Castlebar Town Council were in a bit of a pickle .last week.

One of Castlebar’s twin towns has served notice of a possible "divorce" on local town councillors unless efforts are increased to improve and promote the special link.

and the reason for this Gallic le feck off ? The letter sent from the town elders of Auray , in Brittanny (as in France rather than Spears) described the source of their angst thus

The Auray/Castlebar Twinning Committee no longer has the possibility of continuing to arrange exchanges between the young people of our respective towns owing to the fact that Castlebar appears to lack the necessary structures, that is, enough volunteers to take care of the supervision and organisation, as well as having accommodation problems and so on," the letter began. It went on to say that the Auray strand of the partnership had brought up their concerns on several previous occasions but nothing had been done to improve the situation.

Fear not. Castlebar Town Council will not undo centuries of Hiberno-French relations (cue uileann pipes and memories of The Year of The French, perfidious Albion, etc). Mon dieu, exclaimed Mayor Michael Kilcoyne,

We are extremely anxious that this partnership will continue and we will be organising a meeting in Castlebar to see what we can do to make the situation better. First of all I will be writing to the committee in Auray this week, telling them that we will be arranging for a number of people from Castlebar to travel to their town in the near future. I, myself, or the deputy mayor will also travel to the town and hopefully we’ll be able to make things right again," he said.

Un junket, n'est pas?

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Thursday 23th January 2003

January blues

It hasn't been the worst January ever. There has been a bit if sunshine, the frost has not been too severe and the snowdrops are finally out.Each new day has an extra minute of light every morning and an extra two minutes in the evening. Still, a bit of real sunshine would be nice now.

Deia, Mallorca, Spain - Summer 2002

Deia in Mallorca in Spain was the home of Robert Graves. He is probably best remembered for his novels about the Roman Empire, that formed the basis of the BBC TV series I, Claudius - [which I, Claudius character are you?]. He is buried in a simple grave in the village graveyard.

Graves' Grave - Summer 2002

To bring the dead to life / Is no great magic / Few are wholly dead / Blow on a dead man's embers / And a live flame will start - Robert Graves, To Bring the Dead to Life

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Ireland joins the nuclear club

What links Iraq, Ireland and Iraq ? Dodgy sides of beef ? A historical grudge against the Brits? How about the respective chairs of the United Nations Conference on [Nuclear] Disarmament. Iraq chairs the 66-country forum in 4 weeks in May, followed by Ireland who will then hand over to Israel (the order is chosen alphabetically).
Israel have nuclear weapons but never talk about them, Iraq never stop talking about how they don't have nukes and Ireland..well, unless the Bertie Bowl was a clever cover story for a secret weapons programme, would seem to have little to offer the conference. It's unlikely to take up to much of the Government's time this summer.

It has been stalemated for nearly seven years, unable to agree on a program of work, which must be approved by all 66 members.


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Pack up your troubles...

The Irish Supreme Court decided that foreign nationals who are parents of Irish-born children do not have an automatic right to Irish citizenship.The decision affects about 7000 asylum seekers. Around the same number have already been granted residency on the basis of having Irish-born children - will the tough-talking Minister for Justice send them packing too?

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Planet Blog

There are a number of directories for blogs, such as Blogdex and Blogwise. There is also GeoUrl. The site presents the location of blogs geographically - you can click on a picture of a globe and see all the blogs located within a region. To add your site, you add your longtitude and latitude. If your map-reading isn't up to much, or the battery on your GPS is flat, you can always use Maporama.

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Tuesday 21th January 2003

Why isn't there a postal strike when we really need one ?

The Revenue Commission has sent out another 40,000 letters demanding that people who had bogus non-resident bank accounts cough up or else.The last batch of letters yielded 100 million Euro. In case anyone hoping to plead ignorance by blaming An Post, they are sending the letters via registered mail.

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I'm glad the farmers didn't try this...

I don't think this form of protest will catch on here.

Donna Sheehan wants to stop what she believes is the U.S. military's naked aggression in Iraq by taking off her clothes and getting women across the world to do the same.The 72-year-old California artist has recruited her friends and neighbors to use their nude bodies to spell out the words "No War" and "Peace" in protests that are drawing attention and spurring women worldwide to bare all in the name of peace."We are doing this from the heart and from a feeling of desperation," Sheehan said. "It is a wonderful, physical way of creating a powerful statement."

It sure is.

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The gathering storm

Figures differ for the number of protestors at the anti-war demo in Shannon at the weekend. The meedja put the figure at around 1000 but participating groups put the figure at around twice that. The protestors argue that offering a supply line to the US constitutes military assistance and therefore violates Irish neutrality - the Government position, smoothly outlined by former UN ambassador Noel Dorr on Saturday, is that since no war has been declared, there is no problem.Another issue is the fact that the US planes travelling through Shannon are carrying weapons - another violation if true - the Govt. have assured the people that a reminder will be sent to the US and other governments. I hope that letter doesn't get stuck in the post.

Among the protestors was Martin Ferris, Sinn Fein TD, who knows only too well the difficulty of transporting weapons of mass destruction and trying to conceal them. His expertise should come in useful at the protest site. It must make a change for Martin to take part in a protest against a war that hasn't been declared when he and his party are usually under pressure from the Unionists to declare an end to a war that his associates have stopped fighting (according to themselves anyway).

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Who wants to be a millionaire?

Wondering why your local elected representative is sporting a tan ?

COUNTY councillors are spending more than EUR2.8m on conferences at home and abroad with elected members availing of visits to the US, Europe, Scandinavia and the Far East.

In the West, there were plenty of councillors travelling first class on the gravy train. County Clare County Council sent fifteen of their members for a formal twinning ceremony with Charleston, South Carolina - a snip at EUR36,000.If you go to San Francisco, be sure to put a flower in your hair. Or, if you are one of three councillors that spent 11 days there, just put EUR19,000 in expenses in your pocket instead. Like, groovy, man.

Not to be outdone, six Galway Co Galway councillors blew EUR17,393 of taxpayers money attending a conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their efforts were not in vain, as it appears that officials in Milwaukee are about to pay a return visit to Galway. Their attitude to overseas trips seem a little different.

Each of the supervisors[i.e. officials] will pay all of his own costs, including airfare, hotels and meals, said County Board Chairman Ken Miller of Germantown. No tax dollars will be spent on the trip, he said.
In addition, County Highway Commissioner Ken Pesch and Chip Beckford, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society, also plan to make the trip. Pesch and Beckford, too, will pay all travel and lodging expenses.

I hope the boyos in Galway get their visitors a nice gift each. They can afford to.

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Sunday 19th January 2003

Cookhouse über alles

Something had to give. The headlines of almost every Irish Sunday newspaper all dealt with Tim Allen's conviction for possessing child pornography [see also here]Without exception, the news coverage was widespread and hostile - the Sunday Independent devoted half of the front page to the case, and three and a half pages inside. Tonight, the Allen family released a statement, declaring that

they were conscious that "the values for which Ballymaloe has been seen to stand for since it was started...appeared to have been besmirched." They family say that between themselves, it has been decided that it would not serve the interests of the business if Mr. Allen was still associated with the Ballymaloe company.

A Tale of Two Cowboys

In Texas, a man who talks rather than acts is described as being "all hat and no cattle" *. America's best known Texan, George W Bush cannot be so accused. The massive build-up of American troops in the Gulf has had the desired effect of enabling weapons inspectors back into Iraq. Since many of these troops stop in Ireland for a leg-stretch and a slap-up meal at the surprisingly good resaurant at Shannon Airport, there has been protests at this apparent breach of Irish neutrality (denied by the Government, of course).

There is a strange irony to all this. Back in the Eighties, Ireland was busy feeding the Iraqi regime, via beef exports. An army marches on it's stomach, and Iraq was then involved in a vicious war with Iran. Irish beef was exported to Iraq using a financial mechanism called export credit insurance. As described in Fintan O' Toole's book "Meanwhile, back at the ranch",Iraq was able to manipulate the export credit to raise money for their war effort. Needless to say, there weren't any people marching outside meat plants, or cattle markets, demanding an end to Irish support (however indirect) for the Iraqi regime. And given that many of the high-tech industries in Ireland have links to the defence industry, I very much doubt that oppostion to any war in Iraq will amount to much.

Funnily enough, it was a problem with inspections that led to the Beef Tribunal in the first place. It was clear to the Department of Agriculture that there was a problem (i.e. fraud) relating to meat factories claiming EU subsidies.However, the veterinery inspectors were unable to gain access to the meat plants. Alas, the vets could not "wave the big stick", and most of the fraud went unpunished. The Beef Tribunal, for all it's cost and duration, managed to find plenty of wrongdoing but nobody guilty of doing it.And the result - nothing was learned.

If you're think "Beef Tribunal- so what?", its worth remembering that the Foot an Mouth outbreak last year damn near ruined the tourist industry for 2001. The first outbreak in Roscommon happened after a truckload was delivered in the middle of the night to a meat factory. Above board? Nope.The outbreak in the Cooley peninsula could not be tracked because there was 6000 non-existent sheep registered in the area - i.e. farmers fraudulently claiming subsidies.

You can dress 'em up but....

Further shenanigans in South Africa. It seems that half of the GAA senior teams are on holiday in Cape Town, and in the same hotel. The papers today carry stories of drunken horseplay by the swimming-pool, which is hardly news.The Kerry, Kilkenny and Dublin senior teams (football, hurling and football respectively) all issued denials.

They were using the pool and they were naked. The sort of behaviour we witnessed is not the sort of behaviour we have come to expect and appreciate from Irish people, sniffed the manager

He has clearly not met many Irishmen. Thirty or forty young lads and no women ? What else was going to happen?

I hope you don't want a new one...

The Tribune and Independent both carried a photo of Bertie Ahern staring forlornly at the government jet at the airport in Mexico City - the bloody thing wouldn't start. Funny that it should happen just when there was talk of replacing it (which, given other cutbacks, would be a tad unpopular)


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Tough on crime, tough on the reporting of crime....................................... Saturday 18th January 2003

The fate of the Connacht rugby team hangs in the balance. In an effort to save money, the Irish Rugby Football Union want to scrap the team, leaving just Munster, Ulster and Leinster. There has been plenty of protests in Galway and plenty of irate callers to Galway Bay FM. If Connacht loose tonight against Pontypridd tonight in the quarter final second leg of the Parker Pen Challenge Cup, the coup de grace is expected soon after.

The Irish Times today describes how the IRFU have booked 88 rooms in a five-star hotel for three days in Rome, for the Ireland-Italy rugby match.

Some will be occupied by the players and management but the majority are for others including the 22 members of the IRFU committee. The committee is due to vote at a special meeting in Lansdowne Road next Thursday on whether to disband Connacht as a professional entity in order to save money.

Just like the government, no matter how many cutbacks are announced, there is always money for perks.

Gone but not forgotten: Today FM's woeful website still lists Eamonn Dunphy as presenter of the Last Word - there is no mention at all of current presenter, Matt Cooper. The pages for the other programmes contain neither phone numbers or Email address, even though almost all of the shows accept SMS or phone-calls. Useless.

The debate over crime and punishment has convulsed the country this week(well, the media anyway). The first has been the conviction of Tim Allen for downloading around 1000 pornographic images , nearly 200 of which involved children from a website in the United States. He pleaded guilty and received a sentence of 240 hours of community service - he also offered to pay 40,000 euro to a charity for children. Since Tim Allen is married to Darina Allen, celebrity chef, and they both run the very successful Ballmaloe Cookery School, there was a huge media presence at the court hearing.

Reaction to the verdict was mixed, with radio phone-in programs deluged with calls critiscising the perceived leniency of the sentence. The Irish Times and discussion on RTE's 5-7 Live program have focused on the discrepancy between Allen's sentence and that of a teacher who was convicted in a similar case who received a 9 month prison sentence (the last three months were suspended). On Today FM's The Last Word, there was a remarkably calm and mature discussion that, while noting some minor reservation of the judgement (e.g. the perception that Allen's payment to a charity was related to his sentence), concluded that sentence was not unduly lenient, and treatment is much more preferable and effective than prison.

It has been noted that 1 in 3 charges for possession of child porn results in a conviction, so the Allen sentence is not unusual in the overall scheme of things. What has been ignored in the entire furore is the fact that many sex offenders receive relatively short sentences. Today's Irish Time's devotes a full page to the Allen case but on the following page (in an article of less than 80 words), there is an account of a Cavan farmer who was jailed for repeatedly raping and assaulting a thirteen year old girl over the period of eight months. He got five years.

The judge in the Allen case criticised the media coverage of the case (as did Allen's solicitor and also Darina Allen), particularly before the trial. Newspapers must love these sort of cases - there is little sympathy for anybody even remotely connected with paedophelia, so they can pretty much write what they like (e.g. Darina:I still love my Perv Tim - which I very much doubt was a verbatim quote).

Sometimes, the press' desire to capture/reflect/stir-up the public mood can backfire, and on Monday, the managing editor of the Irish Independent and Evening Herald, the editor of the Sunday World and a producer of the 2FM's Gerry Ryan show will appear in the High Court to explain why they should not be jailed for contempt of court. Their appearance relates to their coverage of a joyriding case in Dublin - three youngsters in a stolen car crashed into a taxi in Dublin, killing the driver. One of the joyriders later died. Coverage of the case has included the names and photographs of the two remaining accused. Again, the airwaves glowed red as it emerged that, because of a shortage of dedicated prison space for children, joyriders effectively suffer no sanction even if the Gardaí catch them. Expect the men from the press to make their mea culpas and get a smack on the wrists, but no more.

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I'll go on........................................................................................................ Thursday 16th January 2003

Oh to have such problems. In the UK, up to 100 trains a day will be cut from the timetables in order to alleviate the congestion on the British rail network. I doubt that there are 100 train journeys in all of Ireland per day (excluding the Dart).

The Guardian carries a Samuel Beckett quiz today (what a crowd-pleaser!). I scored a paltry 5 out of 12 and managed to get nearly all the Waiting for Godot questions wrong, despite having seen the play only 5 days ago. There is also an appreciation of Beckett by theatre director Sir Peter Hall - after my woeful display, I think I'll just take his word for it.

The Zimbabwe Daily News prints a letter from an irate Irishman who posted mail from Dublin to Zimbabwe which never arrived. He writes,

I complained to the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin, Ireland, about this very serious matter. The GPO advised me that they had received numerous similar complaints, and informed me that international airmail was arriving in Zimbabwean post offices, but did not get any farther than that.

Considering that an Post were incapable of delivering mail in time more than 100 yards from the GPO this Christmas, this sounds like a convenient excuse. And yes, I believe them when they say they were deluged with complaints about Zimbabwean post offices. Don't we all.

It can't help to have a country that begins with the last letter of the alphabet....

Stunned has been keeping tabs on the assembly of the Spire on O'Connell Street, including photos. The Spire should be fully assembled within the next few days. It's built to last for 300 years. Here's a picture of one of Ireland's more enduring structures - the round tower at Kilmacduagh, close to Mullagh More in the Burren in Co. Clare (gallery to follow next week).

Round Tower at Kilmacduagh (Cill Mhic Dhuach) near Mullagh More in the Burren, Co. Clare, IrelandIt was built 1400 years ago and survived the Vikings, Normans, British and even our own vandals.

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Tie a yellow ribbon round a old, old tree................................................................... Monday 13th January 2003

On a grey drizzly January day, GMIT (d'RTC) exhibited a solar-powered car. No chance of anyone driving off in it.

Galway City Council has decided to chop down most of the trees in Eyre Square as part of a redevelopment plan. There has been some opposition to the plan, and locals are tying ribbons to the trees because,'s easier than chaining oneself to a tree. Particularly in January.
The City Manager assures the public that new mature trees will be introduced into the Square to replace the existing ones. Which begs the question; why not just move the existing ones? "The new trees will be the Premier League of trees". Ah yes, but is that Manchester United or West Brom? we shall see.

The Observer and the Sunday Tribune both mention the constant stream of US troops passing through Shannon airport. There is a small protest group campaigning against this practise - they claim that since the troops are probably being shipped with their weapons, it contravenes Irish neutrality. On Morning Ireland this morning, Gay Mitchell waffled for Ireland. He began by saying that it was no time to sit on the fence, and did his utmost to criticise the Government without offering any opinion at all on Irish neutrality. Sooner or later, we, as a nation will have to decide exactly what we are neutral for or against.Probably later.

File under Scraping the Barrel. The headline in today's Irish Mirror; Bertie's grief at Bee Gee's death.

Resistance is futile but occasionally amusing.Via the Guardian.

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Meanwhile, nothing happened................................................................... Sunday 12th January 2003

With the 'tractorcade' protest over, it was safe enough to venture up to Dublin on Saturday night to the Gate Theatre to see Sam Beckett's existential rib-tickler, "Waiting for Godot", which runs until the end of the month. I have only seen one other Beckett work, The Beckett Trilogy (based on the Malone, Malone Dies and Unnameable) that Conor Levitt brought to the Town Hall Theatre in Galway last year. Call me a philistine but I found it tough going. Even the presence of Michael D Higgins in the audience did little to leaven that evening!

This production also features Levitt in a minor role - the two main characters are played by Johnny Murphy and Barry McGovern - Alan Standford also features. The production boasts artist Louis le Brocquy as the designer - though it's fair to assume that Louis didn't need to open a second can of emulsion decorating the stage.

Antony Cronin described "...Godot" as a play "where nothing happens, twice". Given that it is a cold view of man's existence and how one passes one's life, and a pretty abstracted appraisal at that, it is a challenging play. Two tramps, down on their luck and close to the end of their lives, wait for someone. They assume that his arrival will somehow transform their existence (thought they are not sure how) and even when he shows no sign of ever arriving, they hang about rather than proceed with their journey (and lives). Bruce Arnold reviewed it in Saturday's Irish Independent - I'd agree with most of his sentiments. Johnny Murphy's performance is superb but I though McGovern was too aloof, as if he were the narrator rather than a participant.

There was a queue of people sitting on the steps outside the box-office hoping to get a seat if there was a cancellation. I couldn't help pondering the scenario of people sitting about waiting for someone they hope doesn't show up so that they can go see a play about two people who sit around waiting for someone who never shows up. Hmmm.....

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The Glass Menagerie ........................................................................... Friday 10th January 2003

Both the Connacht Tribune and the Galway Advertiser report the plan by Galway County Council boffins (and no, I didn't know we had any either) for a radical redesign of Tuam town centre, including a glass roof for the town centre. New roads around the town will also be built.

The roads, if approved, will open up significant land banks for housing to accommodation the expected influx of people into the town. Christmas comes early for the builders, then.

This is part of the redevelopment that is planned as part of Tuam's designation as a "hub" (or city as other countries call it), which should double the size of the town. "People will faint at the thought of the town centre going under a roof", commented Cllr.Paul O'Grady. Actually, a few people will tremble at the thought of twice as much Tuam as before.

Cllr. Paddy McHugh added sagely, "This will take time to digest" before hurrying off for dinner.

Only about 25% of households within the Gaeltacht are fluent in Irish, according to Donncha Ó hÉallaithe of GMIT. Since being part of the Galtacht entitles one to certain grants (such as the equivalent of the firt-time buyers grant, now abolished for everyone else), the suggestion that the Gaeltacht area should be reduced is a politically sensitive one. Eamonn O Cuiv (whose Galway West constituency would be affect by a change, and who was a former minister for the Gaeltacht) is having none of it - those people vote for him and they won't be too happy if they lose the grants.

The existing boundaries were drawn up by a Government commission, under the chairmanship of General Richard Mulcahy, in 1926. The boundaries were reviewed in 1956 by Patrick Lindsey, parliamentary secretary for the Gaeltacht. No review of the Gaeltachta has been undertaken since.

The recent report of Coimisiún na Gaeltachta recommended the introduction of an independent structure to revise the boundaries of the Gaeltacht as soon as data from the next Census becomes available. However Minister for the Gaeltacht, Éamon Ó Cuív rejected the criteria for Gaeltacht status proposed by the commission.

Of course he did - his Galway West constituency would be affect by a change - those people vote for him and they won't be too happy if they lose the grants.

Suburbs of Galway city are part of the official Gaeltacht, where it is estimated that actual fluency is around 1% - there are probably more Spanish speakers.

It must be something in the water - Achill Island has another lottery winner. An Achill man living in Liverpool won 15 million quid sterling on the UK lotto.

There's something else in the water in Mayo too. The Environmental Protection Agency reported this week that incidents of faecal contamination in water supplies in Mayo was one of the highest, at 45%. It was 77% in Leitrim but they probably wouldn't notice the difference!

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Barbarians at the gate ......................................................................... Thursday 09th January 2003

The farmers protest has reached the outskirts of Dublin, to the trepidation of the Jackeens. It's hard to see what the protest will achieve, other than educate the residents of the capital on the must-have accessories for tractors in 2003. After all, almost all the subsidies that farmers receive comes from Brussels, not the Irish taxpayer (perhaps they should drive to Berlin instead?) And blaming the current minister of agriculture, Joe Walsh seems a little harsh.

Joe was honoured by the French government last year. For a radical new translation of Waiting for Godot? Nope. His lifelong devotion to Bordeaux? Try again. His unstinting support of the French as they resisted every attempt by Germany and the UK to reduce subsidies for famers in the EU? You decide.

The very cold weather has produced some beautiful sunrises and sunsets this week.

Red sky in the morning

Shepherd take warning,

Red sky at night,

Shepherds delight.

Since sheep are colour-blind, they don't care but they don't turn their backs on the shepherds (at least not in Mayo).

During the week, before sunrise, I saw a formation of jets flying east. Either it was part of the military build-up for attacking Iraq, or a bunch of airline pilots trying to freak out their passengers. According to the Connacht Tribune, it's just 60 years since an American B-17 bomber crash-landed in front of the agricultural college in Athenry (they thought they were over Scotland). The crew were smuggled back to Fermanagh to rejoin the war and the crash was supposed to be hushed-up. However, since the plane lay in the field for a month in full view of the Dublin-Galway train line, it might not have been a complete secret.

The number of people taking the Dublin to Galway/Westport train reached record numbers in 2002. How many of them were actually sitting for the journey is not recorded.

Those of us in the west may take just a little pleasure at the agony that is the county of Kerry in mourning at the state of their football team. Matters have not been helped by comments made by the team coach, Páidi O Sé (he's currently down in South Africa scaring the natives). He referred to Kerry fans as the roughest type of f*cking animals you could ever deal with, presumably sick of the slagging he gets in every pub in Kerry. Now, far be it for me to quibble with his assessment but... Páidi, have you ever looked in a mirror? People in glasshouse shouldn't throw stones (or wave the ugly stick).

Hilariously, Paidi has said that that he had meant to say Kerry people were hard to please, and a proud race of people. They'll be even harder to please after comments like that. It has also been suggested that Paidi was the victim of a crafty Dublin journalist/filthy Jackeen/wife-swapping sodomite/liberal D'olier Street trendy/ culchie-hating scribe/delete where applicable.

It will keep us in Kerryman jokes for a while....

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A university should be a place of light, of liberty and of learning-Benjamin Disraeli. Monday 06th January 2003

Residents groups have protested at plans by the Galway campus of GMIT (or Galway RTC, as tradionalists refer to it) to build an extension that includes a cafe and bar. Now, the proposal for a cafe conjures up images of young intellectuals holding forth on the social, political and cultural issues of the day (a bit of a stretch, I'll grant). The bar, on the other hand, brings forth the image of Junior B footballers, hanging from the ceiling competing to see who can pull down the most lightbulbs....

Listening to the local IFA representative on Galway Bay FM radio this evening, it's clear that this week's tractor protest by farmers (see 3rd January entry below) is being planned with military precision, as long as someone remembers to bring a tow-rope and jump-leads. An extra hour has been planned into the schedule since the procession of tractors has to pass Mother Hubbards on the way to Dublin.

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A plague on both your mouses................................................................... Sunday 05rd January 2003

According to RTE's 5 7 Live radio show on Friday, Ireland is currenty plagued by mice and rats. The rain of recent months has flooded their dens and the constant building work has disturbed their traditional habitats (and provided nice new homes without any worries of the first-time buyers grant).

One of the ongoing building works cited is the gas pipeline connecting the natural gas field off the Mayo coast with, well, quite a bit of the country. The original list of towns in the west were expanded to include whatever town had a minister (or a marginal seat) - in fact, if Jackie Healy Rae had made it back into government, Killarney would have probably got it too. They'll just have to make do with Jackie's hot air instead.

As it turns out, my own house is a victim of this plague. It's not surprising since I live in one of the wettest parts of Ireland and there has been constant building around my house since I moved in 2 years ago.

Having spent the weekend listening to what sounds like the George Foreman of rats scuttling about under the floorboards, it was time to get medieval on his ass. I have some experience in this area - my previous house had a similar problem. I took action there when the buggers demolished a 2kg bag of spuds overnight and began chewing through the fridge door.

The weapon of choice is an anti-coagulant poison. It works (as was explained on 5-7 Live at teatime) by preventing the rodents' blood from clotting - causing internal bleeding and eventually death after a few days of suffering. Cunningly, it also causes them to seek water, which means they go outside to die (no nasty lingering smells). No - it's not nice, but what is the alternative? If only I had a cat - I could throw it at them.....

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A Massey is classy but a Zetor is better..............c..................................... Friday 03rd January 2003

Well - happy new year to you all. It was a crisp, sunny day today, and perfect for a good long walk in the Burren. The frost never melted in the shade today and parts of the country tonight may be as cold as minus 5 degrees. There might even be a bit of snow.

Good news for Loughrea and anyone that has to drive through it on the way to Dublin or Galway - a bypass for the town has finally been approved, according to the Connacht Tribune. Don't get too excited - it will be 2004 before there is actually any digging, pushing of wheelbarrows, long tea-breaks, etc.

Dublin or bust. A prime example of Czech engineering poised for action next weekThe Galway to Dublin road might best be avoided next week - farmers are going to converge on the centre of Dublin over the next week in a slow convoy of tractors to highlight farmer poverty. Three hundred tractors from around the country will set off during the week, including 50 leaving from Oranmore on Tuesday morning. I didn't realise that there was 300 hundred roadworthy tractors (complete with tax and insurance) in the whole country.

John Dillon, the president of the Irish Farmers Association, said the intention was not to cause any inconvenience to other motorists. Phew - if he hadn't said that, who knows how people might have interpreted a 300 long line of tractors crawling through the capital. I hope they don't bring their muckspreaders.

There's clearly still a few quid in Galway...we're only three days into the new year and the 03 registration plate for Galway is already at 350.

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