School Struggles
OUT in West Clare it’s a tale of two schools -- one with four pupils that is about to close its doors after 152 years, and another that needs four pupils to ensure its survival.

The classrooms in Scropul National School will fall silent at the end of the month when the school closes for good.  However, further up the coast road in Doonbeg, Baltard National School is looking to enroll four additional pupils to ensure it reopens for the new school term in September.

With just five pupils currently attending Baltard, the school will host an open day on Friday in an effort to bolster school numbers and to coincide with the raising of the schools recently acquired Green Flag.

For the school to be deemed viable, Baltard, which marked its 100th anniversary in June 2011, will have to increase its pupil numbers to at least nine come September.

Efforts to ensure the school opens for its 102nd academic year come at the same time as Scropul National School, in the Kilmurry Ibrickane parish, enters the final weeks of its 152-year history.
Michael Haugh, chairman of Baltard National School Board of Management, is hopeful that the school’s open day on Friday might help to boost attendance numbers for the next academic year.

“If we get four new pupils in we can hold on to the school. There’s a good chance. We saw the opportunity of using the raising of the green flag to have an open day, to try and attract more pupils to the school,” he explained.

Deirdre Cotter is in her second year as principal and during her tenure the school has been revamped, equipment wise. The school also has a resource teacher and a school secretary.
Although the Department of Education was in touch some time ago querying the viability of Baltard National School, Haugh says the department had not made contact in recent months.

“They never wrote back to us one way or the other. They didn’t tell us what was happening. If they were closing us, they’d have told us at this stage so at the moment we’re assuming that everything is okay and if we build up the numbers, we’ll be staying put. If we can turn it around, it would be a great school,” Haugh said.

Clare Champion

Brotherly Ear Bite

A DONEGAL man who bit off his brother’s ear in a fight has received a suspended jail term at Derry Magistrate’s Court.

Sean McCallion, of Dunberry Hill, Bridgend, pleaded guilty to wounding and possessing cannabis when he appeared in court on Friday.  The charges relate to an incident on August 24, 2011.

The court heard that police were called to an 18th birthday party, and when they arrived the injured party’s ear was “dangling off.”

It was revealed he had to get 22 stitches to the injury and has suffered problems with his hearing since the incident.

Police spoke to the man about his injuries, and he said “it was brotherly love” and that he and his 22-year-old sibling “fight all the time.”

The court heard McCallion was arrested and told officers, “This is a joke. It was just a fight.”
As he was being taken into custody, a small package of cannabis fell out of his pocket.
McCallion claimed that he bit his brother’s ear in self-defense and “didn’t mean to bite it off.”

A defense barrister conceded it was an “extremely serious assault” and her client was “horrified and disgusted” by what he had done.

She said McCallion is not usually an aggressive person but had consumed a lot of alcohol on that night.

The barrister said the defendant is now abstaining from all alcohol and drugs and hopes to rebuild his relationship with his brother.

Suspending a six month jail term for three years, District Judge Barney McElholm also fined the 22-year-old £150.

Donegal Democrat

No Mortgage Worries

ALMOST half of all homes in Mayo are mortgage free.

The county has the highest portion of houses without a mortgage in the country, as 45.2% of householders own their home outright, according to analysis carried out on the 2011 census by property consultants CBRE. The number of homes in the county without a mortgage is up on the 2006 figure of 45%.

Co Roscommon has the second highest proportion of households that own their homes outright, with 44.6% having no mortgage on their residence.

Western People

Dangerous Ghost Estate

RESIDENTS of a Monasterevin housing estate say that it’s only a matter of time before there is a serious accident or fatality in the area.

Brocan Wood estate is located on the Cowpasture Road. It was to have been a housing estate, to be built in three phases, with a crèche and a shop included in the development.

At least that was what the eight families who bought their homes at the end of 2009 and early 2010 believed. However it wasn’t to bem and a receiver has been appointed leaving the families living in what is virtually a building site.

Some families are living beside nearly finished houses. But these buildings have not been sealed properly so rats, mice and birds can get in.

Other families have mere foundations as their neighbors. The foundations have metal sticking up out of the ground and are dangerous, particularly to children. The families say they cannot allow their children outside to play because it is simply too dangerous.

Another serious issue for the residents is the sewerage system as another resident, James Dooley, explained.

“A temporary sewerage system was put in place by the builder and this is the case to date. There is sewerage piping above ground level, which is completely exposed. There is a foul smell that comes from this temporary sewage system, which is especially bad in the summer,” he said.

Some of the residents can’t use their downstairs toilets, as the smell from this temporary sewerage system travels back up the sewer pipe. This smell ends up in the homes of the residents, which is especially bad in the downstairs toilets, but also affects the upstairs toilets.”
In addition to problems affecting the estate as a whole, individual houses have their own problems.

These include a bathroom ceiling caving in while a child was in a bath and a house which floods every time the dishwasher is turned on.

When contacted for a comment, Kildare County Council made the following statement: “The

Building and Development Control section of our Planning Department has been liaising with the receiver in this case. As a result the receiver has indicated that they are preparing tender documents for completion of outstanding works in the estate.  It is anticipated that the tender documents will issue at the end of June.”

Kildare Nationalist

Two Holes in One

MOST golfers spend the best part of their sporting life trying to get a hole-in-one -- and then Gerry Guckian goes and gets two in one round.

The 49-year-old beat odds of 67,000,000/1 to pull off the amazing feat during a competition at his home club of Greencastle Golf Club in Donegal on Sunday.

Guckian, a father of three, hit his first hole-in-one at the par three ninth. He had barely recovered from the shock when, just two holes later, he hit a second at the par three 11th.

An elated Guckian, a solicitor in Derry, says he can’t believe what happened. And he wished he had put a bet on himself, as one of his playing partners on the day was a bookie.

"There was some excitement on the golf course and the adrenalin was pumping. I’m over the moon," said Guckian.

The chances of hitting two holes-in-one in a single game is said to be about 67,000,000/1. Winning the Lotto is only about 8,000,000/1.

His playing partners on the day included bookie Tommy McBride, Hugh Casey, and his younger brother Neil, the captain of the club in the Inishowen peninsula.

"We believe it is the first time this has happened in the club’s 120-year history," said Neil Guckian.

"We will be contacting the Golfing Union of Ireland in due course to find out if it is the first time it has happened in Ireland."

Gerry Guckian, who has been playing golf since he was a child, has enjoyed three holes-in-one over the years. But two in one round was beyond his wildest dreams.

He plays off a 14 handicap. His lucky ball on Sunday was a Titleist 4. He used a five iron on the 180-yard ninth and a seven iron on the 190-yard 11th. He carded a respectable 39 points overall in the competition.

The Examiner

Joe Conlon and Ann Kelly get into the spirit ahead of the Trim Haymaking Festival.Photocall Ireland