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


Christmas Comes Early
CHRISTMAS has come early to one shop in Limerick after Brown Thomas officially unveiled the first Christmas shop to open in the city so far this year.

The iconic O’Connell Street store officially opened its Christmas market last week in preparation for the next 117 shopping days.

“The demand is there to open this early,” explained Brown Thomas living division manager Verette Gabbett, who added that a Christmas market has been a central part to Brown Thomas for over 50 years.

“We will begin to trade from the day we open and by November most of our Christmas trees will be gone. Many parents will begin their Christmas preparations once the kids have gone back to school,” she said.

“There is a lot of organization and stress involved in Christmas planning so it really helps to be organized.

“We stock a lot of unusual hanging decorations which are the types of things you hand down from one generation to the next.”

However, one customer who saw the display said that it was putting pressure on people to begin thinking about Christmas already.

“I do think August is a bit too soon for a Christmas shop to be opening to be honest, considering that there isn’t a lot of money around at the moment and I think the last thing people are thinking about right now is Christmas,” said Ciara Clancy from Patrickswell.

A second customer agreed, saying that it was too soon as schools have only just opened.

“I think that it’s probably too early for it to be open as kids have just gone back to school but I’m sure it will be packed and there’ll be plenty of people going in already,” said Suzanne Costello from Pallasgreen.

However one person who was delighted to see the first signs of Christmas was three year old Charlie Collins from Caherconlish, who says he already has his Christmas list made.

“I’m asking Santa for a Shipwreck Thomas this year,” he said happily.
Limerick Leader
Dangerous Cliff Walks
THE local coastguard has renewed its plea to dog owners to keep their pets on a lead when walking near cliffs.

This follows the recent death of a springer spaniel which had fallen more than 100 feet from cliffs at the Giant's Causeway.

The alarm was raised at 3:40 p.m. on the Sunday afternoon when Belfast Coastguard received a report from the National Trust at the Giant's Causeway that a dog had fallen from the cliffs, near to the location of a similar incident earlier this month.

Because of the danger to the owner attempting to reach the fallen animal, Coleraine Coastguard Rope Rescue Team was deployed to the scene, with the Inshore Lifeboat standing by offshore for additional support.

A Coastguard rope rescue technician was lowered to the springer spaniel, which was lying at the base of the cliffs at Portnaboe. Sadly, the animal had sustained fatal injuries. Its body was recovered and handed over to its grief-stricken owner.

"This incident underlines the need to keep all dogs on a lead near cliff edges.

“Dogs can easily fall over the edge of cliffs when exploring or playing. Sadly, in such circumstances serious injury or death is likely to result,” a spokesperson said.

Ballycastle Chronicle

Vets Seeking Help

VOLUNTEERS who work with local British service personnel in Ballyclare and Antrim have said that the numbers seeking help for mental health issues are continuing to rise.

For some who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, physical injuries can be a tangible reminder of darker moments. However, those who assist service personnel warn of mental health problems which can turn lives upside down if left to fester, and have urged anyone experiencing mental health issues to speak to someone immediately.

The rise locally is reflected across the U.K. Combat Stress, a charity which offers support to members of the forces suffering from mental health issues, has said that it received over 1,500 new referrals between April 2011 and March 2012.

They currently assist over 5,000 service personnel throughout the U.K., including 724 in Northern Ireland, with men seemingly most affected. Only three percent of those receiving help from Combat Stress at present are women.

Branch secretary of the Royal British Legion in Ballyclare Alec Murray said that service personnel on the front line were experiencing scenes not seen for generations.

“The soldiers who have been over in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing things that haven't been seen since World War II. It's a big change going back to civilian life and many solders can find it difficult,” he said.

“A lot of these men bottle things up and can suffer a lot of stress." 

The Legion in Ballyclare serves as a first point of contact for military personnel seeking help in relation to finances or other issues, including combat stress.

“They can talk with people who have had a shared experience of being in the forces," said Murray.