Ireland's Eye: What's going on in the old sod this week
A look at news from around Ireland
Granddad becomes priest
Widowed father of two John O’Byrne, 67, was ordained to the priesthood in St. John’s Cathedral.
O’Byrne, from Janesboro, was ordained to the priesthood by the Most Reverend Dr. Dermot Clifford, archbishop of Cashel and Emly. He decided to become a priest in the aftermath of his wife Martha’s death in 2004, and just recently completed his four years of seminary training at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome.
The newly ordained priest said he was “a bit anxious, but looking forward to it.”
“If I am to be honest, I am always apprehensive moving into something different, something new,” explained O’Byrne, whose children Jonathan and Mary and three grandchildren participated in the Mass.
“My married life experience has to stand to me, my working life experience, having experienced difficulties that people encounter, mortgages, rearing children, married life itself, I would hope that I would have a compassionate understanding for people. That would be my hope,” added the former Irish Cement employee. He worked for 43 years with the company.
He acknowledged that these were tough times for the church, noting that he was deeply saddened by the recently published Cloyne Report.
“The church has come through crisis before and, please God, it will come through it again,” he said.
Speaking afterward, Clifford said he would like to see more people following O’Byrne’s lead.
“We would like to have more of them. There is a group of people now like him, late vocations and they could get us through to times when younger men might go again,” he said.
Wedding ‘sham’ shock
Police in Derry have apologized to a young Strabane couple after arresting them both moments before their wedding on suspicion it was a sham marriage.
Neil McElwee, 24, and his 19-year-old bride Yanan Sun, who is four months pregnant, had just arrived at the Guildhall last Tuesday when police flooded the ceremony room, arresting the couple and detaining their guests for questioning.
“Yanan had just arrived and we had filled out our final paperwork. The ceremony was just about to start when we were told there was a bit of a problem. Eight police officers then came in and we were arrested,” said McElwee.
“In front of everyone, our family and our friends, they said the wedding was a sham. I couldn’t believe it. I started shouting at them to stop. I told them they would be sorry. We knew we were in the right.
“The only sham which took place on Tuesday was how the police acted.”
The couple was taken to Strand Road police station where they were separated and questioned for five hours before being released unconditionally. Sun was so devastated by the ordeal that once she reached Strand Road she asked officers to be allowed to change out of her wedding dress.
“It is not what I dreamed of for my wedding day,” she said. “I am left absolutely devastated.”
Three of the couple’s guests were subsequently taken to Strand Road for questioning about their visas, and McElwee’s mother and best man also found themselves subjected to lengthy questioning.
The couple have been together for just over a year. They planned to marry next year, but brought their plans forward when Yanan discovered she was pregnant.
Neil, who works as a chef at Ardgort House in Castlederg, said he had been working “exceptionally hard” to make his wedding memorable.
“I saved whatever money I could to try and make the day as special as possible for my wee woman. I just wanted to give her her dream day and we put in so much effort to make it happen,” he said.
Following their release without charge, the couple heard from Guildhall staff on Wednesday who said as their paperwork continued to be in order they could still get married. The couple decided to marry at 3 p.m. that day, without all the glitz and glamour of the previous day. Dressed in their every day clothes they exchanged vows in front of a handful of guests.
“We decided not to wait around,” Neil said. “Sure, we weren’t having the day we dreamed of but the core reason was still there. We still love each other and we still want to be together.”
However he said the memory of the day that never was will stay in his mind. “The police were full of apologies when they let us go, but apologies won’t bring our wedding day back. Apologies won’t fix things.”
The couple, through their solicitor Karina Breslin, intend to lodge complaints with the Police Ombudsman, the U.K. Border Agency and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Single dad struggles
Single fathers in Kerry are unable to have their children over to stay with them because many of them are living in one-bedroom accommodation, a meeting of Kerry County Council heard.
Councilor Danny Healy-Rae told a meeting of the council that he receives "calls on a daily basis from single men and separated fathers" who "cannot accommodate their children" because they live in "unsuitable accommodation."
The meeting heard that there are currently 362 men on the housing waiting list in Kerry, 172 of whom are aged between 35 and 55 years. Healy-Rae said he wanted to make the county council aware of the fact and stated that the situation "is very sad because children are only small once.”
He called on Kerry County Council to rethink their approach in allocating accommodation to single and separated fathers.
"In most cases, the children stay with their mothers and go to their fathers for a number of days," he said. "Men can't accommodate their children when they want to come to them. It is hard on the fathers, but especially hard on the children."
Healy-Rae said that most single or separated fathers do not qualify for rent allowance and that "Kerry county should do everything possible to accommodate these people.”
"I had a fellow last week crying on the phone. In legal separations, most of the time, the wife gets custody and the family home. I would ask the council to try and look at it in a fairer light," he said.
"I am not castigating Kerry County Council in any way but they have to look at their approach to housing single fathers from the point of view of the children."
Steep school costs
Children and teenagers in Kildare and around the country may well be enjoying their summer holidays, but hard-pressed parents are already starting to count the cost of sending them back to school.
In the past week, the Irish League of Credit Unions, which has almost three million members nationwide, including thousands in Kildare, issued the results of a survey on back-to-school costs.
It concluded that this year, a typical family will spend approximately €320 on each primary level child, with back-to-school expenditure for a second-level student amounting to around €470.
The survey showed that many parents believe that second-level schools in particular are not sufficiently aware of the need to help parents cut costs in respect of uniforms and books.
Voluntary contributions, averaging €158 for second-level pupils and €102 for those in primary school, were another contentious issue, with many parents pointing out that payment of these contributions was not really “voluntary” and that they added to the financial burden.
A large number of parents surveyed came out in favor of the use of computer technology, including laptops and e-books in the classroom, on the basis that it would cut down on the cost of books.
The survey highlighted the difficulty experienced by many families in dealing with the expenses involved in sending children to school. While almost half (46%) of parents said they could meet back-to-school expenses out of regular monthly income, the remaining 54% are forced to dip into savings, seek help or borrow.
Around one-fifth of parents qualify for the government’s back to school allowance, but the majority of these say the grant is inadequate. Others borrow from the credit union or use credit cards.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the survey is that almost two-thirds of all parents admitted that back-to-school expenses would have a negative impact on family activities and paying other bills.
Around 7% said they would have difficulty paying other domestic bills, while a further 7% said they would be forced to forego or delay a credit card payment, incurring additional interest charges.
The Irish League of Credit Unions is encouraging members to plan for back to school expenses, seek out the best possible value and talk to credit union staff if they are experiencing difficulties in the run-up to September.
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