G8 Bust
IT to be the biggest thing to happen to Fermanagh in a generation, bringing thousands of visitors and £7 million to the county and the local economy which relies so heavily on tourism.

But now that the G8 Summit has come and gone, some of those who rely on visitors to the county feel let down by the promises of what the G8 would bring.

“It was absolutely devastating to tourism in the area,” claimed Donal Martin from the Custom House pub restaurant in Belcoo.

“June is usually fabulous for us, our third best month of the year after July and August.

“But the G8 decimated that, and our trade isn’t back yet to where we would hope it to be at this time of the summer.”

Martin said they were finding business building up a bit, but that it was still very slow. He said he has no doubt the G8 affected people’s travel plans, and that visitors who would traditionally have come to the area during June stayed away.

Across the county, near Castle Archdale, Kelly Maguire of Cedar’s Guesthouse and Rectory Bistro said her experience of the G8 in Fermanagh was also “very negative.”

“It was built up to be something it wasn’t,” said Maguire.

“At all the meetings we were told the only road closure would be the Shore Road.  But during the summit there were road closed signs in Kesh for the B82 – the road that runs past Cedars – and traffic was diverted through Irvinestown to Enniskillen.

“The Thursday night before the summit we had three people in here. We’d get more on a winter’s evening.”

Maguire said the Sunday before G8, Father’s Day, was also a disaster as a few tables cancelled believing there would be disruption.

“And we had other bookings cancelled the weekend before as the people thought they wouldn’t be able to get around the county.”

During the summit the Cedars had Canadian police staying with them, but Maguire said apart from that the whole thing would have been a disaster.

“We stocked up and even trained the staff up on guiding people around the area, and the history of the house,” she said.

Another member of the local hospitality industry, who didn’t wish to be named, said while the year had been quiet she didn’t believe the G8 as to blame.

The B&B owner, who runs her business just outside Enniskillen said the season has been quiet.

“I don’t think tourists are staying away because of the G8.  With the cost of food and electric and oil going up and every one is looking for a bargain, a lot of the offers are in hotels in the south of Ireland,” she said.

“We got Enniskillen and Fermanagh out into the wide world so we will benefit in the future, maybe not this year but next and there after.”

Fermanagh Herald

Pension Change Hits Post Offices
THERE is growing anger over proposals to change social welfare payments from post offices to fully electronic payments.

A tender due out this month from the Department of Social Protection will effectively see recipients of social welfare payments being forced to use bank accounts.

Last month Councilor Paddy O’Rourke put forward a motion calling for the minister for social protection to reverse plans to change the way payments are made.

However, a letter from the Department of Social Protection received by Leitrim County Council claims that the change is something a majority of users are seeking.

Councilor Francis Gilmartin said he was disgusted by the response.

“Those receiving social welfare payments are already facing cuts and now AIB have announced an increase in charges so this will just further cut into their payments,” he said. “Social Protection may save a lot of money by this change but that money should be put back in to payments to help offset the loss for those on social welfare.”

O’Rourke agreed saying that there was no demand for this change and it was going to leave “a whole swathe of people who were unfamiliar with these types of payments, with no other option.”

He said the move would also devastate the already fragile rural post office network as social welfare payments make up 80 percent of their business.

“This will start the fall of the local post office,” he warned.

His words were echoed by Councilor Mary Bohan, who is also a post mistress in Drumkeerin.

“It beggars belief really that two weeks ago Minister Pat Rabbitte was praising post offices and calling for more services to be given to us, and here we have his party colleague transferring services away,” she said.

Bohan said post offices were the hub of a community and also played an important social role.

“If you don’t see a regular elderly recipient, maybe someone who lives alone, for a few days you know there is something wrong, how will we know now?” she said.

The Irish Postmasters’ Union also criticized the move, saying it would force the 18 percent of Irish people who are un-banked, and mainly use the post office, into the arms of the banking community.

“Pensioners should ask that their pensions be paid in cash through the post office so they can avoid those bank charges,” they said.

“We at the IPU call on the minister to reconsider the strategy she has adopted of moving to fully electronic payments.”

Leitrim Observer

Attacked by Eel
IT’S a good job city businessman Jimmy Griffin is such a calm person. A freak encounter with a six foot conger eel during a day out scuba diving in Connemara last month took a huge chunk out of the side of his mouth and almost cost the award-winning baker his life.

A less experienced diver would have panicked, and probably drowned, after being bitten by such a huge creature 25 meters underwater. But his cool reaction after having the regulator knocked out of his mouth, allied to the quick thinking of support staff at Scubadive West, near Killary, averted a near certain tragedy.

Griffin had not been underwater for two years when staff at the North West Connemara center invited him out for a free dive during a try out day when three major suppliers were showcasing new equipment to experienced divers.

The weather was good, he brought his seven-year-old daughter and Polish mother-in-law along for a day at the beach, and the 48-year-old – a dive master with more than 200 dives logged – was buddied up with another experienced enthusiast for a boat dive at a place called Inis Bearna.

After jumping in off the boat, they had spent over 40 minutes underwater. A pod of dolphins had passed just before they got into the sea and, familiar with the site, he knew that there were plenty of conger eels in the area.

“All of a sudden I felt I got hit by a freight train. That’s the only way to describe it. I got hit by this thing, it had me by the face and I was being tossed around like a rag doll,” Griffin recalled.

“It hit my head really hard. My regulator was knocked out of my mouth. I knew something was after hitting me and biting me, but I didn’t know what it was. I couldn’t get my hands around it, it was so big. I managed to wrestle it off and the pain started to set in on my face.”

Calmly drawing on his experience, Griffin put the regulator back in his mouth. He watched the giant eel, which was at least six feet long, swim away as he signaled to his buddy that something was wrong and gestured that they should return to the surface.

Galway City Tribune

Dunnes Brawl
SHOPPERS in Dunnes Stores in Ballymagroarty watched open-mouthed as a brawl broke out in the aisles on a recent afternoon.

Some customers headed for the exits after several men became involved in a fight.

One eyewitness reported how six men with southern accents, some of them in their late teens, began shouting at one another.

The young mother, who did not wish to be identified, said, “One burly man took off his t-shirt, pushed a younger man to the ground and began punching him. The other men got involved and it turned into a brawl.

“People were genuinely afraid. It was quite scary. There were a few children scared by the fighting.”
Police said they have not received an official complaint about the altercation.

Dunnes Stores declined to comment on the matter.

Derry Journal