Ireland's 32 counties

Parrot for the Pub

A Longford publican has come up with a novel way to attract the crowds into his pub during the recession.

Eddie Valentine recently purchased a pet parrot, and his feathery friend is now taking up residence behind the bar.

Since Coco's arrival in recent days there has been an air of excitement in the Main Street public house, and Valentine says his customers can't get enough of the African Grey.

"People just love him. He barks like a dog, meows like a cat, whistles and talks. He can even sing, ‘You Raise Me Up' by Westlife. He really is the new focal point of the bar."

Valentine explained why he decided to buy the unusual pet for the bar.

"Well, I've always wanted a parrot, but instead of keeping him at home where he wouldn't get any attention I decided to bring him to the bar. I'm always here so he'll have company,” he said.

He then described the bird's transition period to his new environment.

"I knew it would take him a few days to settle in, but I couldn't believe how happy he was within a day or two. It's in the African's Grey's nature to be very sociable, and he's in his element here now,” said Valentine.

The cheeky chappy has even got his owner in trouble on a few occasions.

"He can say some lovely things and he can say some very crude things, and sometimes he can do it in front of a crowd which can be quite embarrassing. I've been teaching him some new words since he came to the bar though – now he can say 'Ed loves Coco.’”

When asked is it fair to keep a pet like this in a public house, Valentine is quick to defend his decision.

"I don't agree it's cruel. He's out of harm's way in behind the bar and he's being well looked after by me and my staff,” he said.

African Grey parrots can live up to the ripe old age of 70, and Valentine says he plans to hand his pet down to his children so he can live on in the bar for future generations to see.

Longford Leader

Cops Miss Body

THE Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has apologized to a Derry family after two police officers searched a house in Strathfoyle and failed to discover the decomposing body of a man lying on a sofa in the living room.

Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson, who investigated the incident, recommended that the two officers be suspended.

The man's family met with District Commander Steven Martin, along with Policing Board member Martina Anderson.

The incident happened in September 2008 when the man's neighbors contacted police after he had not been seen for more than a week. The neighbor contacted police again the following day and two officers were sent to the house.

As they were about to go inside, one officer warned the other about the state of the property.

The ombudsman's report said the officer went inside the house and began to search, but the main living room windows were partially boarded up and the visibility was poor. The officers then left without discovering the body, which was on a sofa in the living room.

The next day, two police officers, including one with previous knowledge of the house, went back but still failed to locate the man after an initial search.  In talking to neighbors the officer was told the man ate and slept in the living room. They re-entered the house and found the man's body on the sofa.

Hutchinson said, "I think there is a lesson for all of us in official organizations that vulnerable people, such as those dependant on alcohol, are still falling though the cracks in the system. If it was not for the persistence of the man's neighbor the discovery of his body would have been delayed even further."

Derry Journal

‘UFO’ Sighting

THE apparent mystery of whether Drogheda was visited by extraterrestrials on New Year's Eve deepens.

A local man has seven minutes of video taken in the town on the date in question which he says is “the clearest footage of Unidentified Flying Objects taken in Irish skies.”

John Smith took the footage outside his house shortly before midnight, and it shows six very bright lights flying in sequence over the town.

“I have been an aviation enthusiast for over 20 years, and I know these weren't any kind of planes or helicopters, as there was no noise and no wings or other flashing lights,” he says.

“I am not saying they are any kind of space ship or anything like that, but it is very clear footage of something that can't be immediately explained, and I challenge the authorities to say what exactly they are.”

The Drogheda Independent has seen this footage and it makes for quite compelling, if not exactly conclusive, viewing.

The lights are extremely bright, and ovoid in shape, and the first two seemed to have a beam of light out the front, almost like headlights.

They are at a similar altitude to a conventional aircraft, and moving at a slow but steady pace, but traveling in close formation, closer than you would see two commercial aircraft.

“When I saw the first two flying over the sky, I knew it was something strange, so that's when I grabbed the camera,” said Smith.

“I know people have been saying they could be balloons or helicopters, but when you see how they were all flying steadily along the same route, and so many of them, they couldn't be either.”

Drogheda Independent

Priest Calls Time

A PRIEST who is taking time out from his ministry to “consider his future” has called for a meaningful debate on the issue of married priests and women priests.

In a frank and open interview, Father Tommy Conroy said he was taking time out to decide on his future, mainly because of the pressure of the workload and the loneliness of clerical life.

He said his reason for speaking out was not to be critical of the church, but rather to encourage debate on the future direction of the church in Ireland.

Conroy went straight from second-level education to studying for the priesthood at St. Peter's. He was ordained at the age of 25.

Among his many jobs, he was chaplain to Gorey Community School for 17 years before being appointed to the parish of Gorey and Tara Hill last year. He also maintained some of his school duties.

The transition to parish life presented its own challenges. The workload in a parish can be very demanding.

“For those that actually work, it's a mission impossible, and there's very little lay involvement to lessen the load,” he said.

“The church has to face up to two things. I think they have to face up to a married priesthood, and I can't understand why the church is not open to women priests as well.

“I'd like a debate. I can't understand why it's not being debated and why people are not asked for their opinion,” he continued. “I've always said these things, but it seems that it doesn't carry much support.”

Life as a priest can also be lonely. He said that he had a good circle of friends in the Community School, but when he moved out into the parish, things changed when he was seen out and about in social circles.

Conroy added that rumors about him had started to go around the town. “There were all sorts of rumors, but none of them are actually true,” he said.

“I do find it hard that you can't have friends without insinuations being made. If you're ever seen talking to a woman in public, it's automatically assumed something illicit is going on.”

He said he would take a year out to consider his future. “I suppose you could say I'm at a bit of a crossroads,” he admitted.

“The pressure of work has increased the sense of isolation and loneliness. You're just running all day and you're wondering what you're really achieving.”

Conroy hopes his future will include working with young people. He spoke openly about his reasons for taking time out at a recent Mass, and received huge support from local parishioners.

“There's a huge amount of appreciation for whatever bit I've done over the years,” he said. “But the challenge was too big for these shoulders.”

New Ross Standard

 Car Collapse

THE number of new cars licensed in Ireland so far in 2010 has continued to fall compared to last year despite the government’s efforts to boost the ailing motor industry with the introduction of a scrappage scheme.

New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the number of new cars licensed in January fell by almost 5% compared to the same month last year.  A total of 10,469 new private cars were licensed last month, down 527 from the 10,996 vehicles licensed in January 2009.

The collapse in the Irish car market is highlighted by the fact that almost 33,000 new private cars were registered in January 2008 alone.

Irish Examiner