Santa abseils from ceiling of the Great Outdoors in Chatham house.Photocall Ireland

Electric Taxi
WEXFORD'S first electric taxi has caused a spark of excitement among revelers in Gorey this month, as Francis Lenehan started taking passengers in his car which sources its power purely by plugging the mains supply.

Lenehan has owned the Nissan Leaf privately for about six months, but only put the taxi plate on it in the past week. “It's working out great,” he said.  “The passengers are amazed when they are in it. It's so quiet.”

The Leaf has a top speed of around 140 km/h so travels at 120 km/h on the motorway no problem at all, and can be charged at a fast-charge point in less than half an hour.

“It's as good as any car,” said Lenehan.  “I did it to save money, and there's big savings on them. I'd say I'm saving around €300 a week. I'm hoping to add more electric vehicles to the fleet.”

There's one fast-charge point in Gorey, at the Maxol Station, while there are also other slower charging points at various locations around the town and county.

“There's little or no servicing, no engine oil and no exhaust,” said Lenehan. 

Thomas McDonald of Nissan in Wexford, who sold the car to Lenehan, said he is the only electric taxi operator in the South East.

“There are a couple of different categories of buyers, and Frankie would be what we would call an early adopter of new technology,” he said.    

The car is also so quiet that an artificial ambient noise has been added to it when it goes below 30 km/h so pedestrians can hear it approaching.

New Ross Standard

Record Setting Elves
A NEW world record was set in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary on Sunday afternoon when 936 young people gathered dressed as elves.

The young children from schools and parishes from right across Nenagh and its environs created the new world record in the Guinness Book of Records.

The last record was created in New York City on December 7, 2009, when just over 600 elves gathered in one place.

The event was organized by the Nenagh Chamber of Commerce and is aimed at raising over 40,000 for Enable Ireland to help build a new respite center in Nenagh.

RTE News

Jobs Crisis
THE Midlands has the highest unemployment rate in Ireland, with one in five of the region's adults out of work, according to grim statistics released last week.

Nationally, the number of people in employment fell by 1.1% during the third quarter of this year, but in the counties of Westmeath, Offaly, Longford and Laois the increase in job losses was sharper still.

The unemployment rate in those four counties rose from 16.8% to 19%, meaning the Midlands has now overtaken the South East as the region with the highest level of joblessness.

During the quarter, there were on average 23,100 unemployed in the Midlands, from a total available workforce of 121,900.

In the West region, which consists of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, the unemployment rate declined between July and September, falling from 16.6% to 15.8%.

The Irish National Organization of the Unemployed (INOU) said job creation initiatives in the recent government budget were not significant enough to make a real dent in the unemployment rate.

"Given the unemployment crisis facing this country, it is beyond belief that no large scale measures have been introduced to create jobs and give meaningful opportunities to unemployed people," said INOU coordinator John Stewart.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said "a major new jobs plan" was needed from the government in order to combat rising unemployment.

Westmeath Independent

Hooker Men Shamed
SOLICITOR Ted McCarthy, who represented a number of men charged last week with soliciting the services of prostitutes, says that naming the men has had a huge effect on their families.
McCarthy has also claimed that some of the men are close to suicide.

“My impression before the cases came to court was that they would not be named and this is what should have happened,” McCarthy said.

“The people that are really suffering are the families and especially the children with the run up to Christmas. They could have done without this,” he added.

McCarthy was critical of newspaper editors who decided to use the names of those who came before the courts.

“It was selfish of the papers to name the men, just to sell a few extra copies,” he said.

“This whole episode has had a huge effect on some of the men, some who may even be suicidal,” he added.

Last weeks operation saw 27 men appear before the local courts after they were arrested by undercover female Gardai (police) as part of a major new crackdown called Operation Freewheel on prostitution and sex trafficking. The men were fined for soliciting prostitution services in the city.

Outside of Dublin Limerick has recorded the highest number of detections of prostitution and brothel keeping in Ireland.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Limerick, Jim Long, believes Operation Freewheel sends out the message that Limerick “is the place to be” for sex.  

Long stressed he was not criticizing the Gardai, but believes there are other ways in which to tackle the problem of prostitution in the city.

“The Gardai need to pick up ladies of the night, take them to the pimps and examine the extortion going on,” he said.

“This indirectly sent out the wrong signal. It sent out a signal if you want sex for sale, then Limerick is the place to be.”

Limerick Leader

Family Needs Benefits
THE family of a five year-old girl who suffers from a rare bone disorder is facing homelessness as their benefits have been stopped.

Sarah Morrison was born with brittle bone disease and has only survived due to specialist care received in the U.K.

The family moved to Sheffield from Letterkenny so that Sarah could be close to the specialists in the Sheffield Children’s Hospital. The family returned to Letterkenny in October and made claims for benefits.

The Department of Social Welfare has written to the family saying payments will be stopped until information requested has been given.

Sarah’s father says he has given all information requested and cannot understand why the payments will be stopped.

The family’s landlord has now ordered them to leave their home in Letterkenny by the end of the month because 970 of rent has not been paid. The family was hoping that back payments from the department would cover the rent arrears.

Morrison says he stopped social welfare payments he was receiving in the U.K., closed his bank account that the payments were being paid to and sent his tenancy agreement to the department as requested.

Sarah requires 24-hour care, and Morrison had been receiving a carer’s allowance while Sarah’s mother has been receiving disability allowance because she suffers from severe epilepsy.

Sarah was born with 30 rib fractures due to the rare bone condition osteogenesis imperfecta. She was given just 48 hours to live but she has defied medical experts by surviving to five.

She needs 24 hour care and has a feeding pump and a nasal-gastric tube. She could break bones just by sneezing or coughing.

She attended Letterkenny General Hospital up to 15 times a month and must attend a Dublin hospital every three months for treatment.

“We are going to be homeless at the end of the month. A disabled child is going to be on the street.

We do not have nay money to secure another tenancy. The landlord has been very patient,” Morrison said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Protection said the department could not comment on individual cases, but claimants who come from another jurisdiction have to fulfill the habitual resident condition.

“It is designed to show that you have an attachment to the country that you have moved to and you have not just come here for the purpose of claiming social welfare,” she said.

Donegal Democrat