Ancient Chalice Returns
Culmullen parishioners were thrilled when a 200-year-old chalice mysteriously arrived back on the doorstep of the local parish church early one morning.
The precious piece of silverware had been recorded in diocesan records in the 1930s, but it is uncertain when it went missing from St. Martin's Church in Culmullen.
Retired parish priest of Dunshaughlin and Culmullen Father John Kerrane doesn't recollect the chalice being in the parish during his tenure, from 1989.
The cup and an accompanying paten was left sitting on the step of the church, wrapped in bubble wrap and a brown paper envelope, early one morning. It was discovered by Oliver Walsh, husband of sacristan Lena, as he opened the church at 7:10 in the morning for morning Mass.
The envelope was marked “Culmullen Chapel.” It hadn't been there when he locked up the evening before, and was still dry so hadn't been too long there that morning.
The chalice is inscribed “The gift of the parishioners of Cultrummer 1794.”
Cultrummer is a townland in Drumree and was the site of a previous church.
Culmullen Church underwent a restoration and renovation in 1989 and it is possible that, at this stage, the chalice was put into safekeeping with somebody in the parish and may have only came to light recently.
Whatever the story behind it, its return to St. Martin's Church remains a mystery.
Westmeath remains one of Ireland's poorer counties, according to the latest figures released by the Central Statistics Office, which reveal that in 2007, Westmeath came seventh from the bottom in terms of disposable income per person.
The "County Incomes and Regional GDP 2007" report shows a massive gap between top-of-the-table Dublin, where average disposable incomes per person were €24,038, and bottom-of-the-league Donegal, which came in at just €18,070 per person.
The figure for Westmeath was €20,134 per person, ahead of Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Longford, Offaly and Kerry as well as Donegal.
The figures show that Ireland's wealthier counties after Dublin are Kildare, Limerick, Meath, Wicklow, Sligo and Louth.
The Moate-based Irish Rural Link, which campaigns for sustainable rural communities has said the figures show a two tier Ireland with significant differences in income between urban and more rural counties, with larger gaps likely in future.
According to Irish Rural Link chief executive Seamus Boland, "These figures show that spending on rural infrastructure and local services cannot be cut and highlight the need for investment in infrastructure and training.”
A Newcastewest man who stole bottles of alcohol from local stores on four separate occasions and caused a disturbance after he was found in the middle of a road pleaded with a judge to not send him to jail because it was his "New Year's resolution" to stay out of trouble.
John Ryan, 29, has 80 previous convictions for offenses ranging from theft to public order.
He received a six-month suspended prison sentence at Newcastle West Court last Friday after admitting to charges relating to incidents that took place in the town between last August and December.
During the case, he took to the stand and made an impassioned plea to Judge Mary O'Halloran, stating that he would "rather go to hell than back to prison."
The court heard that last December 6, a motorist driving over the Bridge of Tears near the Cork road roundabout found Ryan in the middle of the road, and stopped to check if he was all right. He got into the back of her car and refused to leave.
The driver called the Gardai (police), who on arriving at the scene found Ryan punching the back of a headrest. He was arrested, but continued to be threatening and abusive.
Last December 19, Ryan entered the local Tesco supermarket and picked up a bottle of vodka worth €8.67 and left without paying. The bottle was recovered.
Last December 12, Ryan entered the Centra shop on the St. Mary's Road at 4:30 p.m. and stole a bottle of vodka. Staff contacted the Gardai, who identified the defendant using the store's CCTV footage.
Last October 13, Ryan entered the Carry Out off-license on Bishop Street, picked up three bottles of alcohol and attempted to walk out without paying.
When confronted by staff, Ryan said, "I can't pay, I'm late for court, don't call the guards" and walked out.
The court also heard that, last August 21, Ryan took two bottles of alcohol from the store without paying, despite being stopped by staff.
Solicitor Michael O'Donnell said that Ryan was "going through a very bad patch with drink" at the time, and on each occasion Ryan "was well out of it."
He said that the accused had always admitted fault, had paid compensation to the relevant stores and had made it his "New Year's resolution" to not be in court again.
Ryan then took to stand to speak in his own defense, and told O'Halloran that he "went through a bad patch" at the time. "It's a new year, and I have a child. I'm asking you, don't put me back in jail. I'd rather go to hell than back to prison."
When O'Halloran put it to Ryan that he had "tormented business people" across the town, he said that he "will never ever again."
She asked him when he had last taken a drink, to which he answered, "Christmas Eve".
O'Halloran gave Ryan a six-month suspended sentence and ordered him to enter into a probation bond for two years. "If you appear before the court again in that time, you will be going to prison," she warned.
Plenty Pub Closures
Tighter drunk driving legislation, more home drinking and a lack of rural transport were blamed for the closure of 49 pubs in Donegal between 2007 and 2009
According to Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) Donegal chairman Martin Gibbons, the year ahead will be a very difficult one for all publicans, but especially those in rural areas.
Figures released by the Department of Finance recently revealed that licenses for a total of 833 pubs had not been renewed between 2007 and last year.
The VFI in Donegal represents around 250 publicans, and Gibbons said he was not surprised at the high level of pub closures in the years in question.
"We have quite a number of licensed premises but Donegal is a big county. The bar trade has been hard hit the same as other businesses in the past year and most of our pubs in the county are in rural areas,” he said.
"Unfortunately, with things going the way they are we may well see further pub closures. We need to see a change in the economy to get people spending again. You look at every small town inn the county and you see a lot of small local shops in bother.
"People have changed their drinking habits and drinking at home has become a serious culture in Ireland now. We probably have two generations now where home drinking is the norm," Gibbons said.
Another factor which has changed how many of the younger people drink is the popularity of Playstations and Wiis.
Gibbons has seen the changed trend where younger drinkers get together in one another’s houses or apartments and play these games.
"We need to try to reinvigorate the pub. How we do that must take account of changing culture and habits. We need to adapt but does that mean we should put Playstations and Wiis in the pub. The pub is a social hub where you can meet and chat to people," he added.
Figures for licenses not renewed in other counties included Galway and Kerry, 55 each; Mayo, 54; Limerick, 52; and Clare and Tipperary, 42 each.
Vietnam Adoptions Nixed
THE Irish government has "slammed the door in the face" of young couples attempting to adopt by suspending services from Vietnam.
Reacting to Minister for Children Barry Andrews’s decision to prevent adoptions from the Asian country, Irish group Helping Hands claimed the move would destroy countless people’s hopes to start a family.
"We would strongly recommend that the Irish government engage with the rest of the international community to help in improving adoption conditions in Vietnam.
Currently the door has simply been slammed in the face of helpless young Vietnamese children who are in need of loving and caring families," warned the group’s chief executive, Sharon O’Driscoll.
"Our numerous requests to meet with government leaders to discuss the situation, particularly Minister for Children Barry Andrews, have been mystifyingly dodged or refused," she added.
The comment came after Andrews moved to temporarily ban all adoptions from Vietnam until a full review is carried out.
In November, Helping Hands denied reports it was under investigation by the Adoption Board over fees it charged people to adopt from Vietnam. It followed a Unicef International Social Services report, which was critical of the make-up of the agency’s fee of $11,100 U.S. dollars, of which $9,000 consists of "humanitarian aid."