Irish Gov’t wants U.S. military

The continued use of Shannon Airport by the U.S. military en route to war zones is at the request of the Irish government, new documents have revealed.

The U.S. military would have been willing to withdraw from Shannon following a series of attacks on aircraft there but the Irish government did not want them to do so, the documents, obtained by Irish state broadcaster RTE, show.

Documents obtained from the Pentagon through a Freedom of Information request outlined the thoughts of a senior official from U,S, Transportation Command, which oversees the transfer of officers between military bases.

“If the Irish had said, ‘Quit coming to Shannon,’ then we would have found somewhere else to go,” General John W. Handy is cited as saying.

It further states that the Irish government was afraid that if they withdrew from Shannon following the attacks, it would send out a signal that the protesters had won and the Irish state did not want that.

The discussions about a withdrawal appear to have occurred in the aftermath of a protest by the Pitstop Ploughshares, a group that caused extensive damage a plane at Shannon in February 2003, before the invasion of Iraq was launched.

The documents reveal that over two million U.S. military personnel have flown through Shannon Airport since 2001, and the number of flights and personnel traveling through Shannon more than doubled in 2003 when the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq.

The busiest year was 2005 when nearly 2,000 aircraft carrying 336,000 personnel flew through Shannon.

Limerick Leader

Famine figures

The village of Killawalla suffered the biggest decline of population in the country during the Famine.

The west Mayo village lost two-thirds of its population during the Famine decade, according to a new atlas of Irish Famine data.

The population of the country during the Famine declined by two million.
For the first time that decrease is charted on a locality-by-locality basis by a team based at NUI Maynooth’s National Center for Geocomputation.

The atlas of Irish Famine data takes a detailed look at Ireland throughout the Famine years from 1841-1851, charting population decline and changing agricultural practices.

Mayo was one of the counties that suffered most during the Famine. The county lost one-third of its population through starvation or emigration.

In 1841 the population of Mayo was 388,847, by 1851 it had fallen to 274,830; the number of homes in the county had fallen from 70,542 to 49,073 in the same period.
Westport, which was a busy Famine port and had a large workhouse, experienced a 15% growth in population during the period, while neighboring Killavalley (Killawalla) saw its population fall by a staggering 65%.

In the space of a decade the number of people living in Killawalla fell from 2,277 in 1841 to just 789 in 1851.

The atlas can be viewed at the county.

Western People

Stealing from baby’s grave

A grieving couple faced further heartbreak when items from the grave of their baby daughter were robbed just weeks after they said goodbye to her.

Hope Alanna Foley Smith died at just three days old on July 5, leaving her parents Stacey Foley and Garrett Smith from Burrin Road, Carlow utterly devastated.

The couple buried their little girl in St. Mary’s Cemetery Carlow and lovingly placed some treasured items on the grave. Yet just days later, two rose bushes and an ornament of a little baby were stolen, while a beautiful angel ornament was ripped from a little box and also taken.

“I am just pure angry and really upset. How could anyone rob a grave? The grave of a child … it’s the lowest of the low,” said Foley.

Foley and Smith visit the grave daily and first noticed that items were being moved; then they were shocked last week to find the precious keepsakes stolen. Hope was the couple’s third child, sister to Sophie, 3, and Kayden, 17 months.

During Foley’s pregnancy complications were discovered at 22 weeks, yet little Hope defied all the odds to be born seven weeks early at just two pounds, five ounces on July 2.

“She was perfect on the outside but inside she had so many problems,” said Foley.
Hope received three shunts while still in the womb in an attempt to reduce swelling, and in her three days of life bravely endured a blood transfusion, 100% oxygen and countless medical interventions.

The family took the decision to donate some of Hope’s tissues to science, to help other babies like Hope, while the decision to allow the shunts to be inserted while still in the womb was praised as a major assistance to medics for the future.
The family admits the trauma they’ve endured has been magnified by the callous robbery.

“There’s security at the town park, so does my dead child not have the same rights as my living child?” asked Foley.

Assistant town clerk Seamus de Faoite confirmed that the council has security at St. Mary’s, a local firm that carries out spot checks on a 24-hour basis.

“We do understand what an important amenity the cemetery is and at our budget meeting every year we put aside money for its maintenance, upkeep and security,” explained de Faoite, who stated that it was not economically viable to have full-time security or CCTV cameras installed at the cemetery.

Carlow Nationalist

Charity cash crisis

The Cork branch of St. Vincent de Paul is set to run out of reserves after Christmas, such is the scale of demand for the charity’s help during the economic crisis.

Brendan Dempsey, the charity’s regional president, said people working for the organization had "never seen things so bad" and its ability to provide for the growing band of needy people is facing "crisis point.”

Dempsey revealed that, last year, the charity spent over €5 million helping 30,000 people in Cork city and county. The final figure for this year is expected to be considerably higher, as calls to its helpline are up 43% so far.

"It’s quite probable that we will help more than 50,000 people in the region before this year is out," said Dempsey.

He added that the charity was currently spending nearly five times more than it was getting in donations.

"The reason we are able to do this is that, when times were good, we put money away for a rainy day. However, we believe all this savings will be gone by next Christmas. We’re simply in a crisis and if the trend continues we won’t be able to keep pace,” he said.

Dempsey said 45% of the charity’s money is spent on single parent families. "Dads are not supporting their children and women who go to court to get maintenance orders find they are not being paid. The money should be directly deducted from a father’s income,” he said.

Irish Examiner

Robbery with lighter

A Skerries man who drunkenly attempted to rob his local post office with a cigarette lighter shaped like a gun has been given a suspended sentence. 

Gerard Weldon, 48, told Gardai (police) afterwards he knew he had no chance of getting away with it and had wanted to get away from his life by killing himself or getting locked up.

Weldon pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to attempted robbery at Skerries Post Office on March 22, 2003. He has seven previous convictions.
Judge Martin Nolan noted it was a replica weapon, but on the day the staff believed it was real. He said Weldon was taking steps to address his problems, and he imposed a four year suspended sentence.

Garda Gerard Moroney told prosecutor Seamus Clarke BL that Weldon skipped to the front of a queue of customers at the branch, and when told by the cashier, who knew him, to go back to the end of the queue he produced what looked like a gun and demanded cash. The cashier noted he smelled of alcohol and hit the panic button.
A coworker saw what was happening, went to a back office and locked up the cash. When Weldon pushed the object under the hatch and pointed it at the cashier’s head. She froze with fear thinking she may be shot. Moroney arrived on the scene from the station across the road and was directed to the front of the queue where he saw Weldon at the window. As Weldon turned and began to walk out Moroney twisted the gun like object out of his hand and restrained him.

Weldon told Gardai after his arrest the object was a cigarette lighter and he had brought it with him with the intention of robbing the post office. He said he had bills to pay.

Moroney agreed with defense attorney Seoirse Ó Dúnlaing that Weldon was highly intoxicated but was cooperative. He agreed Weldon had said he wanted to “get away from his life” by killing himself or by getting locked up.

Ó Dúnlaing said Weldon had been involved in a tragic car accident in 1993 in which he suffered severe physical injuries and afterwards developed a serious alcohol addiction. He said he found himself at a low ebb at the time of the offense but was no longer drinking.

He said the offense was a cry for help and Weldon demonstrated extreme remorse in interview.

Fingal Independent

Sunday march for civil marriage equality for gays in Dublin