Choir quits Mass
A dispute over members of the traveling community wearing inappropriate clothes and disturbing Sunday Mass in Rathkeale has escalated with the decision by the local church choir to boycott the service in protest at the handling of the issue.
There was a wall of silence in Rathkeale as both local priests, Canon Joseph Dempsey and Father William Russell, local councilors and choir members all refused to comment on a dispute that has exposed the sensitive divide between the traveler and settled communities in the town.
The issue came to a head during Mass on Valentine's Day, when a member of the congregation stood up and spoke out against the apparent disrespect being shown to the church by scantily-clad young traveler women, and by people who continuously disturbed Mass by arriving late and making noise throughout the service.
However, a number of locals who did not wish to be named said many in the parish were "very upset" after Russell distanced the church from the sentiment expressed by the local woman, prompting the long-serving choir to walk out in protest.
Noel White, chairman of the Rathkeale Community Council and a member of the choir, said a "difference of opinion" had led to an unfortunate situation.
"My interpretation of this is the priests have to cover themselves, because there could be cries of discrimination. I suppose what was said (during Valentine's Mass), they had to distance themselves from. A priest is a priest, he treats everyone the same,” said White.
"In fairness to the canon, he's been saying it Sunday after Sunday about people turning up late. It's difficult to know what to do. You can't close the door to the church. Hopefully the choir will be going back in the next two or three weeks, and we'll be back looking for new members as always."
White said that some members of the choir "feel that not enough is being done to keep order" during Sunday Mass, and that "some people I know won't go to half 11 Mass anymore."
"It's hard. Never mind that they're not fully dressed going in. That's beside the point,” said White.
"It's people arriving late and disrupting Mass that's the problem. And it isn't just one side of the population either. You'd say something if it was at half eight, but I don't see how you can be turning up late for a Mass at half 11. Sure it's practically the middle of the day. I don't know how it's going to be solved," he added.
Ben Archibald, spokesperson for travelers' rights group Pavee Point, said that it was important that both sides of the community meet and air their grievances over the issue.
Can’t skip car fines
Motorists from Northern Ireland who have flaunted southern parking fees and tolls will now be pursued across the border by the respective departments of transport.
Minister Noel Dempsey revealed details of a new cross-border pilot project that will see information on drivers and vehicles exchanged between the two jurisdictions.
Being so close to the border, Sligo has had to deal with a large number of Northern Irish vehicles parked on the streets, and while most motorists pay the parking fees, a number do not.
Likewise, in Enniskillen, Derry and other Northern Irish towns popular with southern visitors, there is often a blatant disregard for parking fees, with the perception that drivers of southern registered cars will not be caught.
The initial pilot project was launched on Wednesday, March 3 and continues until the end of November.
"Data relating to vehicle ownership will be exchanged for the purpose of traffic law enforcement, including parking offenses and toll evasion," said Dempsey.
This means that Northern drivers who fail to pay parking fines in the south and southern drivers who do likewise across the border could now be fined in their own country.
"We already have a reciprocal agreement in place with the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland to exchange vehicle information on issues such as motor tax and abandoned vehicles," said Dempsey.
Of greater concern for repeat offenders is the news that both authorities intend to use the new system retroactively, to pursue those who committed multiple parking offenses over the last six months.
A Principled Pol
County Mayor Nora Flynn was forced to defend her decision not to travel to represent Waterford at the New York St. Patrick’s Day festivities this year.
An emotional Flynn said that while money had been allocated for the trip in the budget in December, what had happened since then, in terms of the damage to roads, had prompted her decision not to travel.
“I don’t know, maybe it’s the way I was reared, but to me every euro is a euro and when I saw the work that needed to be done, the hours of overtime that were needed, I just decided that the money could be better used,” Flynn told members of the council.
“I would have loved to go to New York. It would have been a huge honor and it would have been my first time representing the county there as mayor.
“But I also feel there are all those people here at home who feel snubbed because they haven’t had their county mayor at a parade in years. I discussed this at CPG and with some fellow councilors and in the end I decided that given the current situation we shouldn’t be going. If some people disagree with me or are disappointed, well I’m sorry about that.”
A number of members led by Fianna Fail’s John O’Leary expressed “disappointment” that the council would not be represented and insisted that now was the time to be promoting Waterford.
“I would never have been in favor of having seven or eight councilors and another seven or eight officials going, then it does become a junket. But now more than ever we need to showcase what we have, and I cannot see why one representative and one official could not go as part of their duties and represent Waterford and all its finery,” said O’Leary.
Flynn’s decision was welcomed by Councilor Brendan Mansfield, a long time opponent of the trip, who said he didn’t know of one job that had been created as a result of the annual New York visit and that taxpayers money should not be spent on it.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor Declan Doocey confirmed he would be traveling to New York for St. Patrick’s Day but at his own expense.
“I won’t be any burden to the Waterford taxpayer,” he said.
Waterford News & Star
THE official Guinness Book of Records has accepted a challenge submitted by the Headfort Arms Hotel in Kells to beat a world record for the largest leprechaun ceili in the world.
Not only is the Headfort Arms trying to get a Guinness World Record, but they are hoping to raise an enormous pot of gold for the St. Vincent De Paul Society in the process. The event will take place on St. Patrick's Day as part of the Kells St. Patrick's Day Festival.
Those wishing to take part must present themselves between noon and 3 p.m. on St Patrick's Day, dressed as a leprechaun, for official registration which will be inspected by a Guinness Book of Records official representative.
All leprechauns will be asked to assemble as part of the parade from 3 p.m., and the official count will take place in front of the bandstand at Farrell Street in Kells, when the ceili will officially get into full swing.
Taunted Orange March
A 27-YEAR-old Derry man was sentenced to three months in prison suspended for 18 months on Friday for playing the Wolfe Tones loudly on his car stereo while driving past supporters of a twelfth parade in Derry last July.
Sean Johnson, of Hollymount Park in the city, admitted behavior likely to cause a breach of the peace and disorderly behavior on July 13 of last year when the main Orange Order march was taking place in the city.
The court heard that around 4:10 p.m. on the day in question, police on parade duty heard Republican music coming from a car being driven up Spencer Road where there were about 20 to 30 march supporters gathered.
They indicated for the car to stop but the driver, Johnson, laughed and drove on. The vehicle was stopped further up the road and Johnson was spoken to.
The court was told that he became abusive, and when an officer went to grab his arm he pulled away, then struggled with police when they went to arrest him.
Defense barrister Eoghan Devlin said it was a case where discretion would have been the better part of valor.
District Judge Barney McElholm said that if there was such a thing as a good time and a good place to play the Wolfe Tones it was not driving up Spencer Road during a twelfth march.
Sentencing Johnson to three months in prison suspended for 18 months and fining him £250, McElholm said it was a forlorn hope to think that anyone who goes around playing the Wolfe Tones all day could ever have sense talked into them as their senses had probably been hammered into submission.