Ghost Estate Demolition
National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) chief Brendan McDonagh and planning minister Ciaran Cuffe have acknowledged that some ghost housing developments may have to be knocked in the future.
The news threw the spotlight on the issue of ghost and unfinished housing estates once again.
As Cuffe announced a national audit of housing developments, the Longford Leader met with many affected homeowners throughout the county.
Ann Harkin, who paid over 200,000 euros for her four bedroom house in Kenagh's Clough Dillons estate along with her husband Eddie almost four years ago, is still confronted by the estate's incomplete second phase on a daily basis.
"It's been like that for the past four years. It's just an awful waste. When you see kids of five and six years of age going in there and getting up on a disused porter cabin, it's just terrible," she sighed.
From the outside, Clough Dillons gives off the impression as being one of Kenagh's more impressive residential developments.
Large detached houses flank its meandering driveways along with an array of landscaped trees and shrubs.
Towards the rear of the estate, however, a different story emerges. Behind the railings lie stockpiles of pallets, loose wires and various other dumped building materials inside what appears to be the estate's unfinished second phase.
"We have a sewerage system but there is nobody in control or maintaining it," another incensed homeowner pointed out.
"It did stop about a year ago and the builders were brought out to sort it out because the sewerage started to pile back into people's houses.”
Deeper into south Longford, further worrying evidence of the county's property woes can be found
Much like Clough Dillons before it, Ballymahon's Dunaras estate has an additional section unfinished, masked by layers of blue hoardings.
"There is about another 50 or 60 houses to be built and we don't really know what is going to happen because it looks like in the current climate they aren't going to build them anytime soon," said young mother Vera Vavrova.
Asked about the government's toxic loans agency, NAMA, perhaps leveling half-completed tracts of land, Vavrova was undecided.
"I would on one hand be glad because it wouldn't attract anybody who wanted to break into houses that are not lived in, It's better to be living in a couple of houses that are full rather than a big estate where there are plenty of houses that are not occupied at all," she said.
It appears that Donegal has been forgotten again by Dublin bureaucrats after it emerged the county does not exist on the maps of the government's crisis response headquarters.
Donegal politicians have claimed that the apparent oversight at the National Emergency Coordinating Center was further proof the Republic's second largest county does not exist in the minds of central policy makers.
Charts on the walls of the taskforce HQ, in Dublin's Agriculture House, show in detail the east, west and south of Ireland.
But in the event of a major catastrophe hitting Donegal or the north, crisis management teams will have to scramble outside the nerve-center to locate a map of Ulster, it seems.
Donegal North East TD Joe McHugh said the revelation would be nothing new to the man on the street in Donegal, but it would rub salt into the wounds.
McHugh said the oversight could be down to genuine confusion on the part of government officials.
"Maybe they think Donegal is the furthest away county from Iceland and so it won't
"Maybe they think there is no-one living there any more, or maybe it's because of the 'No' vote there in the last Lisbon Treaty referendum."
The Fine Gael TD added, "The big question will be is Tory Island included in the maps, because if the islanders find out they are not included there could be a serious militant offensive from them.
"This is a continuation of the inglorious attitude towards the forgotten county," he said.
The HQ also has detailed street maps of the capital and Cork beside clocks showing local time and UTC, coordinated universal time, which is one hour ahead of standard Irish time.
Fianna Fail Senator Cecilia Keaveney said it was not the first time Donegal has been apparently overlooked by officialdom.
"Are we gone again?" she said. "This is the third time. We'll take it for granted then that we're all right."
Keaveney visited the center and said the explanation given to her was that the map covering Ulster was one of a number of maps taken down to facilitate whiteboards, adding that the map would be reinstated immediately.
In recent years, both an Oireachtas (government) video for primary schools and a map by the state training agency Fas showed Donegal's Inishowen peninsula as part of Northern Ireland.
A group of teenage thugs tried to kill two female swans and destroyed 10 of their eggs in a wanton act of animal cruelty in Phibsboro.
Drunken teens threw plant pots and bricks at the two swans that were nesting on the bank of the Royal Canal close to the Shandon Garden houses.
The youths stamped on one of the helpless pens before the terrified birds fled the nest where they had been protecting their 10 eggs. The eggs were then smashed against the neighboring houses.
Local residents, who have cared for the swans for many years, described the incident as a “disgusting, mindless act of violence.”
“We woke to hear the noise on the canal bank and literally could not believe the destruction caused by these thugs,” one resident said.
“There was nothing left in the nest apart from the broken terracotta pots that had been taken from one house and the bricks that had been thrown at the swans.
“The swans, meanwhile, were in the water very agitated and you could see a footprint on one of their backs, while their 10 eggs were battered against our neighbors’ houses.”
Residents have always been protective of the swans which have nested at the same spot on the bank of the canal for over a decade.
“We’ve always minded and fed them,” she explained.
“The 10 eggs were the most they’ve ever had. It’s an absolute disgrace that a human would do this to an animal.”
The DSPCA was called to the scene, but the damage was irreparable. Spokesperson Orla Aungier said, “There seems to be a bravado in trying to take on a swan because they are seen as big animals.
“It’s a criminal offense to interfere with a swan as they are a protected species, so we would ask anyone who sees anything like this to report it to the Gardai (police).”
Aungier said that the swans would more than likely return to the nest despite the trauma they experienced.
“Unfortunately, swans are very much creatures of habit and they rebuild in the same nest year after year,” she stated.
Four Little Lambs
Two's company, three's a crowd and it seems four is a handful in Rossinver after a ewe on Brendan Regan's farm gave birth to four lambs last week.
While this is not unprecedented, it is said to be highly unusual and in 20 years farming, Regan says he has never come across a ewe giving birth to four lambs.
The lambs, three white and one black are all fit and healthy since their birth.
The ewe is also said to be dealing well with the four new arrivals. "It's no problem at all for the mother, she's coping well with the four ewes,” said Regan.
The ewe seemed understandably protective of her four new arrivals but after some gentle persuasion from Regan she relaxed and posed for a picture.
Churchill’s Irish Son?
A documentary team is investigating whether Winston Churchill's right hand man, Irishman Brendan Bracken, was really his illegitimate son.
Arguably one of the most powerful Irishmen of the 20th century and the world's first spin doctor, Bracken's story is being told for the first time on RTE later this year.
The program reveals how Churchill's own children long suspected that political adviser Bracken was their father's illegitimate child.
And now Bracken will look into the details of his own history and the fact that neither he nor Churchill ever denied that he was his son.
Adrian Bracken, a distant relative, has been fascinated by the relationship between the "political fixer extraordinaire" and the iconic British prime minister. "He was rather the son Churchill wished he had," he explained.
"Randolph (Churchill’s son) was quite upset and said that his father treated Bracken more like a son than his own son.
"Randolph referred to 'my brother -- the bastard' when talking about Brendan Bracken," he added.
Adrian said that Bracken, originally from Templemore, Co. Tipperary, denied his Irish roots and claimed that his parents died in a bush fire.
"He became Australian, but he never mentioned his Irishness," the producer said.