An abandoned greyhound has gone from begging for food on the streets of Limerick to living in the lap of luxury in Atlanta after a retired dentist paid over 2,000 euro to fly the dog to America.
The dog has been named Aldi, after the store it was found outside on the Childers Road in the city.
Marion Fitzgibbon, of Limerick Animal Welfare, said Aldi was in terrible condition when they brought him to their sanctuary in Kilfinane last August.
"Aldi was trying to find some food outside the supermarket when somebody rang us,” Fitzgibbon said.
"He came in covered in blood, had no hair, was covered in pressure sores and very thin. He was itching all over from very advanced mange and had secondary infections all over his body from scratching," said Fitzgibbon.
Aldi had to be kept in isolation due the infectious disease, but after "medication, time and tender loving care" the staff in Kilfinane nursed him back to full health.
Limerick Animal Welfare placed a picture of Aldi up on their website, and Barry Simmons from Atlanta got in touch.
"He saw the dog on the website, fell in love with Aldi, sent an email and made the connection,” Fitzgibbons said.
Loan for Communion
A Longford mother claims she was forced to take out a loan to pay for her youngest daughter's Communion due to delays in the child benefit payment system.
Eight-year-old Anne McKenna was, like hundreds of children across the county, celebrating as she received her first Holy Communion in front of family and friends at a packed St. Mel's Cathedral Center.
Her mother Kitty has spoken of frustration after seeing her child benefit entitlements unexpectedly cut off.
As is common practice with child benefit payments, Kitty received a letter requiring her to fill out and return details of her three children within 21 days. However, because the letter she received arrived 22 days after it was originally drawn up, it meant her entitlements for her three children amounting to ***487 were withdrawn.
It was a financial blow that forced the part-time community worker to take out a loan just so she could see her daughter receive Communion. She explained that she received no payment for her older daughter in March and that all payments for her other two children were also cut off in March.
"Because of all this I ended up topping up my loan in the credit union. I got ***2,500 out of the Credit Union. Thank God I have a good track record and a part time job, but I didn't want to go down this road at all because I had taken out a loan in November already. I decided to take out an extra ****1,000 so I could put my kids into summer camps," she said.
Since her payments ceased in March, Kitty says she has explored "every conceivable avenue."
"I have been to Citizens' Advice. They told me that child benefit section won't deal with them anymore and can't help me any more as they are not getting calls answered by them. Social welfare, I can't get through to them and they told me there is not point ringing them,” she said.
Despite receiving notice in recent days that she will be reimbursed with an outstanding ***1,648 balance on June 1 for the three months she is already owed, it is not the first time Kitty has encountered delays.
"I'm dreading the next letter they send me because I know I am going to go through this again," she openly confessed.
"Every time the quarterly letter comes out late they (child benefit) cut my payment. They just flick the switch, cut it off and as far as they are concerned I haven't returned my forms,” she said.
Heartbreaking Balloon Death
THE heartbroken mum and dad of a 10-year-old girl who died after choking on a balloon have urged parents to ensure their children are closely supervised at birthday parties.
Gerald and Dreena Harron were speaking following an inquest into the tragic death of their daughter Clarice, who died after attending a party in Castlederg last November 7, last year, two days before her 11th birthday.
Derry's Coroner's Court heard how Clarice had swallowed a balloon while playing on a bouncy castle at her friend's birthday party.
A number of parents attending the party, and a doctor who lived close by, made valiant attempts to resuscitate Clarice, but she was pronounced dead at Altnagelvin Hospital.
Her mother appealed for parents to ensure children are well supervised at parties.
"I hope no one else ever has to go through this," she said. "This was an accident, people did everything they could. I would ask parents to make sure if they have bouncy castles at parties there is no food or balloons anywhere near it. If there are balloons make sure they are blown up.
"I wouldn't have balloons at a party because I know what it has done to my life."
She described her daughter as her "best friend" and a "loving wee sister."
"Clarice was such a loving wane. The house is so empty without her. We talk about her all the time," Dreena said.
Dad Gerald said Clarice loved her dogs and had won lots of trophies at dog shows.
"She was wonderful, just a perfect, perfect daughter," he said.
Nigel Gilbert, one of the parents at the party, told the court how he had heard an awful scream and saw Clarice being carried off the bouncy castle by her two friends.
"One of the girls said she (Clarice) had swallowed a balloon. I could see she was struggling to walk and lacking air," he said.
He explained how his wife, a radiographer, did the Heimlich maneuver three or four times on Clarice, but she had turned blue.
"I put her in the recovery position to see if she was still breathing," he said. "I thought there was still life there. I put my fingers down her throat but I couldn't feel the balloon."
He said when the little girl was taken away in the ambulance her mother shouted: "Don't leave Clarice, hold on."
Dr. Brendan O'Hare, who raced to the hall when one of the parents told him what had happened, explained how he managed to remove the balloon from Clarice's throat using his fingernail.
However he said that Clarice's pupils were fixed and dilated and there was no pulse.
"I could feel the lip of the balloon, but it was very far down," he said. "When I got there Clarice was clinically dead, but it was absolutely imperative that we continued resuscitation."
Coroner John Lecky said the inquest into Clarice's death was one of the saddest he had seen in years.
Kingdom for Queen
IN a dramatic move aimed at giving the troubled Kerry tourism industry a major shot in the arm, business chiefs in Killarney are to issue an invitation to the Queen of England to visit the county.
They hope Queen Elizabeth II will accept the offer to mark the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s historic visit to the county.
And, crucially, the Irish government has hinted strongly that it would give its full backing to the proposal following a visit by Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin to Killarney.
The past year has been a particularly disastrous period for Kerry tourism with a collapse in revenues and a huge slump in visitor numbers.
The British market, which is seen as key to the recovery of tourism in the county, has crashed, and a visit by the head of state to Kerry is being viewed by industry sources as the only sure-fire way to bring about a change in fortunes.
Now, with the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s famous 1861 royal tour to Killarney fast approaching, the wheels are being put in motion in an all-out effort to get the long-serving monarch to agree to finally visit Ireland’s premier tourist resort.
Hanafin endorsed the bold plan during her visit to Killarney to launch Failte Ireland’s new Kerry advertising campaign, and with political relations between Ireland and Britain at all-time high, hopes have been raised in tourism and political quarters that the queen may finally accept an invitation to visit.
The Kerry branch of the Irish Hotels Federation said it fully supports plans to invite Queen Elizabeth to Killarney.
"There has never been a better time, politically, economically, or any other way for the queen to visit Ireland," said spokesman Michael Rosney.
"If the queen was to visit it would be absolutely fantastic for her to retrace the steps of Queen Victoria 150 years ago, and obviously she would have to include Killarney on her itinerary," he added.
From an economic perspective, Rosney said the spin-off would be incalculable.
"The Queen of England is an icon for British people. If she were to visit Killarney, you could not estimate the good it would do for us," he said.
"It’s just one of those things that you could really call priceless," the Killarney hotelier said.
Hanafin said politically the time was right for a visit by the queen to be fully explored.
"There are a lot of justice, social, policing and political issues to be looked into, but it would be interesting to start the debate and see how people would react," the minister said.