Hands off our water
Dublinshould not prosper to the detriment of Limerick and other towns along the Shannon River, according to former minister Mary O'Rourke who is president of the Shannon Protection Alliance.
O'Rourke said it would be "an act of vandalism" if Dublin City Council was to extract huge volumes of water from the Shannon to boost decreasing water supplies in the capital.
She made her comments at a public meeting at the Strand Hotel organized by the Limerick branch of the alliance. The alliance is opposed to Dublin City Council's proposals to extract 500 million liters of water per day from Terryglass at the top of Lough Derg.
"Where the River Shannon flows and how it flows is an act of nature, and to attempt to distort that, which is what the taking of water would be, is an act of vandalism," said O’Rourke, a TD (member of Parliament) for Fianna Fail.
"Dublin is the capital city and Dublin must prosper, but so must the rest of Ireland. Dublin should not prosper to the detriment of places like Athlone and Limerick and Nenagh, which have every right to prosper, and they won't prosper if they are left literally high and dry."
Say it straight!
A report commissioned by Longford local authorities into future flooding concerns on the River Camlin, which is believed to have cost the taxpayer thousands of euro, will have to be translated into "plain English" after councilors admitted they could not understand its findings.
The study carried out by Dublin-based firm Nicholas O'Dwyer Consultancy Engineers had originally been intended to thrash out a range of anti-flooding requirements along one of the River Shannon's main tributaries.
But when presented with the report at a meeting of Longford Town Council, a series of elected members said the document was incomprehensible because of the complex terminology used by its authors.
Hitting out at the council's preference to enlist external professionals, as opposed to using its own engineers to carry out the report, Councilor Michael Connellan took exception with how the study had been compiled.
"I just can't make head nor tail of it," he complained. "I have tried and I have studied it today but I have no idea what it is. I would invite these people … to come to a meeting and explain it because I personally cannot understand it."
Connellan was not alone in his condemnation of the report's structure. Councilor Tony Flaherty said he found it strange that local authority officials should have felt the need to look outside the county for expert advice when there were "27-odd engineers" within both town and county councils. Councilor Mae Sexton was likewise dissatisfied with the way the entire episode had been handled.
"How anybody is expected to understand what they are talking about, I don't know," she stated. "We need it in plain English."
Members also took issue at the apparent omission of five key impediments along the river which had been aired at a county council meeting just before the summer recess.
Although a rural county with a small population, 23% of primary school children in Leitrim are in classes of 30 or more, a 14% jump from the last two years and well above the national average.
In total 668 pupils in Leitrim are in classes over 30, while 71 students are in classes that range from 35-39. This represents 23% of all primary school kids in the county, a massive jump from just 9.7% in the 2008/2009 term.
Irish National Teachers Organization (INTO) general secretary Sheila Nunan said the figures showed the problem in overcrowded classes in primary schools, already the second highest in the EU, was getting worse.
She said almost a decade ago that the government promised to reduce class sizes for the under-nines to less than 20, in line with international best practice.
Nunan said there was widespread agreement that younger children did not do as well in overcrowded classes.
The dramatic jump in figures in Leitrim is mainly due to teacher cutbacks in 2008. The failure to tackle increasing class sizes in primary schools means that many children are being subjected to a huge educational disadvantage which has negative, long-term consequences, claims local TD Denis Naughten.
"Irish classrooms are among the most overcrowded in Europe, and larger class sizes result in less teacher time being available for each pupil. This lack of individual attention means that teachers cannot respond immediately to children's particular learning needs," stated Naughten.
"Children need to be in classes of no more than 20 to maximize their potential.”
The dramatic nosedive in Shannon Airport’s flight schedule over the past year has prompted calls for the immediate implementation of a new business plan and multi-million euro marketing strategy to revive the airport’s flagging fortunes.
The calls coincided with yet another setback for the airport, with Ryanair confirming a further 21% cut in its Shannon flights this winter.
Airport traffic has dropped from 2.7 million passengers in 2009 to under 1.6 million passengers this year.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said the “treble whammy” of Shannon’s high costs, its refusal to extend Ryanair’s five-year base deal and the imposition of the ***10 tourist tax has devastated traffic, tourism and jobs at Shannon Airport and the mid-west region.
He said Shannon’s response to this traffic collapse, which is to impose a further 33% cost increase when the inflation is zero, demonstrates how out of touch it is with current market reality and how little it cares about traffic, tourism or job development.
From November 1, Ryanair’s Shannon-Paris route, which is currently four rotations per week, will close. The Shannon-Gatwick route will be cut from seven to six rotations per week while the Shannon-Stansted service will be reduced from 13 to 11 rotations per week.
Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey called for a new business plan to make Shannon Airport more attractive to a wide range of airlines.
“Shannon Airport is paying a heavy price for the government’s failure to implement the €53 million tourism and marketing plan for the airport. Only ***3 million has been spent to promote tourism in the West of Ireland,” he claimed.
His concern was echoed by Councilor Patricia McCarthy, who stressed the DAA has a responsibility to ensure all airports including Shannon were profitable and operating to their maximum potential.
“When services were there in Shannon, people were using them. We have put too many eggs in one basket by relying too much on Ryanair and now Shannon is suffering. “Shannon has no aviation policy or business plan. The new U.S. Border Customs pre-clearance hasn’t been properly promoted,” she said.
Ennis hotelier John Madden said that all the organizations should get together and meet the transport minister, otherwise “there could be grass growing on the runway and everyone will suffer.”
Clare Community Forum representative Pat Gaughan claimed Shannon Airport is akin to a “ghost town” with nothing happening.
“There seems to be a concerted effort to close down Shannon Airport. Shannon is becoming a local airport,” he said.
Rape counseling surge
Demand for rape crisis services in the north-east region, which includes Meath, has almost doubled this year, according to figures just released by Rape Crisis North-East (RCNE).
A staggering 654 face-to-face appointments have been offered in the first half of 2010 in comparison to 581 for the entire year of 2009.
Some 970 helpline calls have been supported by counseling volunteers between January and July this year in comparison to 565 helpline calls for the entire year of 2009, according to the organization. This dramatic increase in demand comes at a time when funding to the service has been drastically cut back.
Manager Grace McArdle said severely inadequate levels of funding continues to be an ongoing concern as they endeavor to ensure that each and every client who contacts the service receives the best counseling support possible.
In 2009, RCNE suffered a 15% reduction to core funding from the HSE and a further cut of 10% cut from its total allocation in 2010.
"We were the only rape crisis center in the country to receive such an extreme reduction in comparison to the remaining 14 centers, whose core funding was reduced by three to five percent in 2009. Financial constraints, as well as uncertainty regarding funding sources from year to year, continue to restrict the development of our service," she added.
"As a result of our reductions and the increased number of people who need the support of our service, Rape Crisis North-East must appeal to the generosity of the public at large. The demands caused by our economic downturn makes this even more difficult," she said.