Cleric Blasts Gay Sauna

A PROTESTANT clergyman last night hit out at the opening of a sauna for gay and bisexual men in Derry city center.

The doors of the Cage opened for the first time at a premises in the John Street area two weeks ago.
Local Free Presbyterian minister Ian Brown claimed the facility was not in keeping with UK City of Culture status.

The sauna is run by 37-year-old businessman Barry McGonigle, who moved from Belfast to Derry at Christmas to open the venture.

He says he was inspired by Derry’s successful City of Culture bid last year when he applied for permission to convert a retail unit into a sauna and cafe.

“I was looking for a site and Derry was the next biggest city outside Belfast so it was an obvious choice,” he said.

“I had been to Derry for Halloween and been here for the weekend several times. When I was applying it was around the time of the City of Culture bid and with that being won it seemed like a good place to be.”

McGonigle says he encountered no opposition to his plans.

“We are not doing anything wrong at the end of the day,” he said.

“If there is opposition to us we will state our case. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but people in general have moved on and it is more of a live and let live society these days.”

However, Brown claimed the new venture should be totally opposed on religious and moral grounds.
“The City of Culture is one thing, but we do not want premises of this nature,” he said.

“I am against the promotion of anything to do with homosexuality because it is a death style, and anything that encourages it should be utterly opposed.”

According to the owner, there were 22 visitors to the sauna over the weekend, including people from Strabane, Lifford, Ballycastle as well as Derry.

The sauna’s website lists the services available as sauna, steam room, cinema, sling room, dark room, private cubicles, smoking terrace and cafe. It is open seven days a week, until 11 p.m. during the week and 5 a.m. at weekends.

David McCartney of the Rainbow Project in Derry, which seeks to offer support and advice to gay and bisexual men, said, “Our perspective is that if places like this do exist then it is an opportunity for us to carry out our work in health promotion.

“We can’t afford to ignore places like this because they are going to open up.

“We would see it as an opportunity to reach a section of the population we wouldn’t normally have the chance to reach.”
-Derry Journal

Poor Offaly

OFFALY was the country's second poorest county in 2008, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The newly-published County Incomes and Regional GDP figures show that Donegal citizens had the least average disposable income in the country in 2008, at 18,596.

However, Offaly is second bottom in the income league table of the 27 county areas (Tipperary is divided into two) in 2008. Disposable income in Offaly amounted to 19,704 that year, a slight improvement on the 19,643 recorded the previous year.

The figures represent just 87% of the state average and are a massive 5,600 per person behind the figure recorded in Dublin, the country's wealthiest county, and 2,911 behind the state average.

The figures also reveal the midlands to be the state's poorest relation for the second successive year.
From 2000 to 2006 inclusive, the border region, comprising Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo, was the state's poorest, but that unwanted honor fell on the midlands, containing Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath in 2007 and was repeated in 2008.

In further bad news for the midlands, the statistics also showed it had the lowest GVA in the country, a measure of the value of goods and services produced in the region, less the cost of the materials and services used in their manufacture which were brought in from outside the region.

The new statistics are likely to increase pressure on state agencies to ensure more balanced regional development.

There are also set to be renewed calls for State investment in the poorer counties, such as Donegal, Offaly and Kerry.
-Offaly Independent

Killing the Language

FINE Gael’s plans for the teaching of Irish will lead to the extinction of the language, Fianna Fail Deputy Thomas Byrne has warned.

“I was horrified to hear Enda Kenny say that he would abolish the teaching of the Irish language as a core subject for the leaving certificate. This would be hugely damaging to the language and lead to the extinction of the language,” he said.

“I would be the first to admit that we need to continue to reform the way in which the language is taught, but Gaelscoileana are growing up all over the country and, here in Meath East, where we have our Gaeltacht in Baile Ghib, the pride that people have in their language is evident.

“As an enthusiastic Gaelgoir myself, I have seen first-hand the sense of community that can built in Gaeltacht areas where families come together with a shared sense of purpose and pride in their heritage and culture.”

He added, “For our national language to flourish and grow, we must give it every encouragement. Downgrading the language by making it optional at leaving certificate is a retrograde step.”

Byrne said expert opinion points to the importance of a language being compulsory if it is to survive in the long term. He said that Fianna Fail had a plan for the Irish language, and the party’s 20-year strategy is a comprehensive and detailed roadmap for the development of the language.

“The strategy has a range of new measures, including how Irish is taught, and hopes to increase the number of daily Irish speakers to 250,000 by 2030,” he said.
-Meath Chronicle

Donkey Needs Help

JACKSON the donkey needs your help.  Found three weeks ago abandoned by his owner in the Slieve Blooms by the ISPCA, Jackson was malnourished, covered with tumors along his belly and was walking on the inside of his hoofs.

Thankfully, Jackson is somewhat on the mend, but he will need costly treatment to remove the potentially malignant skin tumors, known as sarcoids.

For his treatment, Jackson will travel to Troytown Equine Hospital in Kildare, which will cost 1,000.  The Laois branch of the ISPCA has been hugely grateful of the support they get in the county, but hope people can offer contributions, no matter how small.

Jackson was found, along with a pony that is also thankfully recuperating. As chairperson of the Laois Society of Prevention to Cruelty to Animals Caitriona Smyth explained, “They were there since before Christmas. They were just dumped and there is not even any grass up there.”

Smyth said in light of the current economic climate, more and more people were now abandoning horses, ponies and donkeys in places such as the Slieve Blooms as their owners could no longer afford them.

“People think we just deal with a few strays, but this is a big problem. His owner just left the poor thing up there. If the animal is suffering I’d prefer they’d have it put down humanely.  Things like this are pure neglect,” she said.

Jackson’s hoofs had been allowed to grow to painful lengths and he was walking on the inside of those hoofs.

“The hoof will grow in the direction he is standing and walking on, so while standing on the inside it curled round like you wouldn’t believe,” she said.

People can donate through PayPal on the group’s website
-Laois Nationalist

Special Communion Treat

A DUBLIN girl who has lost her hair during her battle with leukemia will celebrate her Communion day with a special tailor-made head dress thanks to a kind-hearted designer for cancer patients.

Alyssa Purcell, eight, from Tallaght, was diagnosed with leukemia last April and lost her long locks as a result of her chemotherapy.

The little girl will celebrate her Communion in April, and she was desperate to have a head dress and veil along with all of her friends.

Her mum Joanna called RTE's “Liveline” in a last attempt to source a tailor-made head dress for Alyssa.

Joanna said. "She's lived for this (her Communion.) Even last year, when my nieces were making their Communion, she was getting excited. She's after going through enough so I didn't care, I would have gone to the ends of the earth for her.

"She goes around baldy because she's confident enough. But for her Communion, I wanted her to be happy because she's been looking forward to it for so long."

Angela Goulding from Blue Rose Waterford, which makes headwear for chemotherapy patients, came to the rescue to grant Alyssa's wish for the day.

Joanna said, "They're going to make a hat which will be the same shape as her head so that I can sew in the veil and the headdress."

Alyssa hasn't enjoyed a day outside since Christmas Day, so the Communion will be extra special.
"We're going to visit all the relatives after we go to the Mass, and then we'll do some dinner if we can," said Joanna.
- Evening Herald

Independent candidate for Dublin North East, Jimmy Guerin, brother of murdered journalist Veronica Guerin takes a walk by the coast in his constituency in Howth, Dublin on Friday.