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President Michael D. Higgins turns on the Christmas tree lights in the garden of Aras an Uachtarain, the presidential residence, last week. Photo by: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Ireland's Eye: What's going on in the old sod this week

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President Michael D. Higgins turns on the Christmas tree lights in the garden of Aras an Uachtarain, the presidential residence, last week. Photo by: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Old Lobster Pot Found

AN identification tag from a lobster pot that was lost by a U.S. fisherman in a storm almost 20 years ago has made its way, safe and sound, to south Kerry.

Avid beachcomber Rosemary Hill found the tag over a year ago while walking on the beach in Waterville, but only last week rediscovered the item in her home and successfully traced it back to its owner in Massachusetts.

Having seen the name “Richard Figueiredo” and a number on the tag, Hill decided to try her luck on

Facebook to see if it brought any results.  She got in touch with the first person she found with that name, who amazingly was the son of the man who owned the tag.
"I couldn't believe my luck when he got back to me and said that the tag belonged to his father,

Richard Senior, who lost over 100 lobster pots in what was known as the perfect storm over 20 years ago. I sent him a picture of the tag, which had four numbers on it, and they were able to ID it," Hill said.

"It's just so amazing to think that one of the tags made it all the way to Kerry and I was able to find the man who lost it."

Hill explained that Richard Senior, a fourth generation fisherman from Massachusetts, was overwhelmed when she got in touch.

"I've spoken to him a few times since and he is totally over the moon that one of the tags made its way to Ireland. Although I offered to send the tag back to him he insisted that, because it had such a journey to get here, this is where it should stay. He also told me that this is the only one of the 100 lost pots that have ever been traced back to him,” Hill said.

The story has already made headlines in the U.S., with the Boston Globe and Massachusetts newspaper The Patriot Ledger picking up the story.

The Kerryman

Whale Washes Ashore

IT'S become a “whale big problem” -- how to dispose of the giant carcass of a 42 foot whale, which was washed up on Raghly beach last month.

Sligo County Council is said to be examining options with regard to its disposal, but a week on the dead whale remains on the beach and has become a major attraction.

Amid speculation that the beached whale was swept out to sea over the weekend and returned again, a spokesperson for Sligo County Council said that the fin whale is now secured on Raghly beach.

The final decision regarding how to dispose of the remains -- first spotted on November 28 -- will be known this week, as officials from the council are holding meetings with the local community in the North Sligo area.

They are examining options in relation to the disposal of the fin whale, with the Raghly community hoping to salvage the skeletal carcass as a tourist attraction.

School children eager to get a glimpse of the first fin whale beached in Co. Sligo have been seeking out the remains, and this has spurred the community to try and preserve the whale as a means to promote tourism in the area. If locals can raise the financial cost of preserving the whale, it is hoped that the skeleton will be displayed close to where it washed up.

It is unknown why the fin whale, estimated to be young from its size, died, and members from the

Irish Whale and Dolphin Group visited the remains to take samples for testing.

The Raghly community are hoping to follow in the footsteps of residents from the small village of Kilbrittain in Cork. In January 2009 a 65-foot long fin whale was discovered on its shores and visitors are now treated to the entire skeleton on display, including its rather impressive jaw, which by itself measures 18 feet in length.

The Sligo Champion

China in Athlone

ATHLONE may soon have its very own Chinatown as Westmeath County Council planners last week gave the thumbs up to the first phase of the Europe China Trading Hub project in Creggan.

Athlone Business Park Ltd. got the green light for the 175 million first phase of the project, subject to 47 conditions.

It's the first in a potential five phases of a .4 billion overall master plan which could create up to 9,000 jobs and attract up to 30,000 visitors per week to the town.

The hub is designed to allow Chinese businesses to showcase their goods in order to sell on to the European Union and U.S. markets.

The first phase of the project includes two mega exhibition halls, with each two-storey hall containing space for 270 display areas.

There will be another major multi-purpose hall (known as the China hall) for visiting exhibitions with space for 135 separate display areas.

Another nine smaller one-storey exhibitions halls are also proposed for phase one, totaling 22,000 square meters.

It is expected some 1,520 jobs will be created by phase one of the development.
Westmeath County Council attached 47 conditions to the planning approval, including ones that will see the developers pay over 8.57 million to the council as well as entering into a bond of 1.1 million to ensure the development is completed to the council's satisfaction.

Westmeath Independent

Rock Bottom Real Estate

PROPERTIES in Ballina, Ballinrobe and Enniscrone have been sold at rock bottom prices at the latest distressed property auction.

Two Ballina apartments, a freehold two-bedroom house in Ballinrobe and an Enniscrone holidayhome, were sold at the Allsop Space auction in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin last week. The four properties were purchased for a combined total of 168,000.

Two flats located in Cual Gara, Teeling Street, Ballina, were bought at the auction.

Described as a vacant two-bedroom flat, 17 Cual Gara was sold for just 36,000, exceeding its reserve price of 30,000, while 18 Cual Gara, described as a two-bedroom investment flat, was bought for 41,000, exceeding the reserve price by 6,000. 

A vacant three-bed bungalow in the Marella holiday village in Bartragh, Enniscrone, Co. Sligo was sold for 66,000, exceeding its 45,000 reserve price.

A total of 97 of the 108 properties sold under the hammer with a further two selling after auction, raising a total of 11.4 million.  More than 1,500 people packed into the hotel for the sale.

A small group of protesters from a group calling themselves the Anti-Eviction Taskforce held a low-key protest outside the hotel.

However, proceedings came to a brief halt when one protester stood up in front of the auctioneer and warned about the “ill will” that could affect buyers of distressed property in communities.

The next Allsop Space auction will be held on March 1, 2012.

Fire-sale auctions are becoming the norm in the west of Ireland, with apartments and houses now changing hands for prices that are a fraction of what was being sought at the height of the boom.

A number of apartments in the Cormullen development in Foxford sold recently at bargain basement prices of 69,000, a staggering drop of more than 60 percent from their original prices in 2007. Auctioneers say there are buyers out there if the price is right.

Western People

Holy Water Forever

IT was while visiting houses in the locality and finding the traditional holy water fonts dry in many cases that Connie Gallagher came up with an initiative that has already resulted in interest and sales in this county and beyond.

After undertaking some research on the subject, the Derrybeg man started work on a dispenser fitted with a unique metal tip that’s attached to a container which doesn’t require refilling for months.

“I would be going into a lot of houses and when you’re leaving you get into the habit of blessing yourself, but half of the holy water fonts would be empty. And people would be saying, ‘I filled that yesterday or the day before and it’s already gone dry,’” Gallagher said.

“That’s when I began thinking there must be some way of overcoming this problem.”

And at the end of June, the Sleeghan-based father of two commenced development of the holy water dispenser that won’t run dry anytime soon. Not a dry font in the house, it might be said.

“It’s simple but not that simple to get it right. The brains of it are in the dispenser cap,” Gallagher points out.

The dispenser -- it’s patent pending at present -- comes complete with a support structure that can be hung on any wall and includes a special design.

“There’s a choice of 15 different designs including saints such as St. Bernadette and St. Anthony, the Sacred Heart and Our Lady,” he says.

Only the very tip of the actual dispenser is visible when it is attached to a wall surface. “It lasts for months before it has to be refilled,” Gallagher insists.

He has carefully hand crafted each one of the dispensers he has already produced, and demand has already exceeded expectation.

“I’ve been very pleased with the reaction to it so far and what with it coming up to Christmas, I’m hoping it will make an attractive and practical present,” he says.

Donegal Democrat

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