The Democrat would like to congratulate our colleagues in the fourth estate at Shannonside FM for their recent commendation. On Wednesday night of this week, the Road Safety Authority praised Shannonside FM for having a ‘clear commitment to road safety’, at its annual Leading Lights awards ceremony.
Chairperson of the RSA, Liz O’Donnell, presented the local radio station with an award for promotion of road safety in the region over the last 12-months. Shannonside FM’s news team was praised for promoting a variety of road safety issues affecting both motorists and pedestrians.
Maurice McCabe too was honoured for his contribution to road safety, having exposed the penalty points scandal.
MC of the event, Simon Delaney, explained why Shannonside FM impressed the judges: “The news team strives to promote an awareness of road issues... The Station tries to inform in an entertaining and challenging way, the issues that are facing drivers.”
Claims of flaws in asylum center lease. Owner represents himself in High Court as legal team comes off record, and undertakes not to alter or interfere with lease
The legal battle over the Shannon Key West property in Rooskey was before the High Court again yesterday (Thursday 13th). The dispute is onging in the High Court between Paradub Ltd, a company looking to buy the property which claims it has a contract entitling them to do so, and James Kiernan, the owner of the closed hotel which sits on the banks of the River Shannon, for a number of weeks now.
Last month, it emerged that the Department of Justice intended to utilise the property as a direct provision centre, and Mr Kiernan claimed he had entered into a lease with a company called Abbey Castle Accommodation Ltd. It is understood that this company made the application to the Departmenrt of Justice to provide direct provision services in the property. Plans to accommodate circa 80-refugees in the property from early next year have been met with significant opposition locally, with locals expressing grave concerns over the capacity of the village to cater for such an influx of people.
Richard Keane SC, for Paradub Ltd, explained to Ms Justice Reynolds that there were two significant flaws in Mr Kiernan’s lease with Abbey Castle Accommodation Ltd, which he said fundamentally called into question the lease’s viability as a commercial contract. Mr Kiernan who appeared in court personally, after his solicitors had come of record due to differences of opinion between them and their client, said that there was no problem with the lease in its current form, and that he had no intention of amending or interfering with it.
Mr Keane responded, explaining that the reason for seeking this interim relief in the first place was to prevent the lease from being amended and to preserve the status quo in that regard. Given Mr Kiernan’s stated intention that he would not alter the lease in any event, Mr Keane suggested that Mr Kiernan provide an undertaking to preserve the status quo in lieu of an order. Mr Kiernan provided this undertaking under-oath, thereby allowing Ms Justice Reynolds to reserve costs and adjourn the matter to Thursday the 20th of December, with the consent of both parties.
Guardian of the peace assaulted in the line of duty forced to discharge firearm in self defence. “Guard dog” dead and man injured. Now the Garda has received “serious” threats online and has had to be placed under 24/7 armed protection.
A Garda Sergeant who was involved in a confrontation in which a man was shot in the leg is under armed protection after receiving online threats. A number of threats have appeared online, apparently giving details of the officer's rural home as well as comments such as "go get him". Armed Gardaí were deployed to the sergeant's home on Monday night, just hours after the incident took place and a video of it went viral on social media, as the threats were deemed to be "very significant". The Chairman of Longford’s Joint Policing Committee, Cllr Gerry Warnock has branded the “death threats” made against the Garda involved as “disgusting”.
Garda discharges weapon: Dog dead, man injured
On Monday, December 3rd, at about 5 pm in the evening, a plain clothes Garda Sergeant, who was following up on an investigation, when he got caught up in a confrontation, was attacked by an Alsatian dog. The Garda, who had his side-arm drawn when attacked, discharged his firearm killing the dog. The bullet travelled through the dog and ricocheted, injuring a nearby man, who the Garda had previously been struggling with. The man was injured in his lower leg, and his injuries are not believed to be life threatening. He was admitted to Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar to be treated for the injuries.
It is understood that the armed Garda Sergeant arrived at the scene after a member of the public called Granard garda station claiming that he was unable to get his van back after it had been repaired by an associate of the man who was injured. The caller had driven to Co Longford from the Newmarket area of Co Cork to retrieve the vehicle, but when he arrived in Longford a confrontation broke out and Gardaí were called. When Gardaí arrived at the scene, it is understood the confrontation became more heated and a woman "pulled a slash hook" on the van's owner.
A video of the alleged incident circulated online showing a struggle between a member of An Garda Siochana and the injured man. It appeared to show the officer's tie being pulled by the dog, although the dog was not visible on the screen, before a gun shot rang out, and the woman recording the incident began screaming hysterically.
Both the Gardai and GSCO are investigating the matter. On Monday, the Gardai released a statement to say they would not be commenting on the incident. The statement said: “As part of an on-going investigation by Gardai from Longford, they attended at an incident in Granard earlier this evening the 3rd of December 2018. During the course of this incident an official Garda firearm was discharged. As this incident has been referred to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission, An Garda Siochana are not in a position to comment further."
It is understood that Assistant Garda Commissioner Orla McPartlin travelled to Granard garda station this week to meet with senior officers there and was briefed in relation to the happenings on Monday night. No arrests have been made with respect to the incident.
Last week, almost €4-million of funding was announced for several urban regeneration projects in Roscommon, Longford, and Leitrim. Longford town centre is due to receive €1-million in funding for its ‘Longford connected project’ which will see a link road built between Little Water St and Richmond St. Longford is also due to benefit with public realm improvements on Grafton Court and in the shopping centre area, as well as new footpaths around the Market Square area. €2.89-million was confirmed for Carrick-on-Shannon for public realm enhancements with its funding coming from the Northern and Western Regional Assembly. While just €780,000 in urban regeneration funding has been ear-marked for the Market Square and Main Street area in Roscommon Town.
The plans to develop greater pedestrian walkways in Carrick-on-Shannon are set to begin next year. Leitrim County Council has been granted almost €2.9 million to begin the first phase of an €8-million regeneration plan. The regeneration plans include an extension to the boardwalk past the boat companies on St George’s Terrace, moving the town clock tower slightly to be more visible from all streets, and improving the entry to market yard. There are also hopes that the local authority can acquire lands at ‘Flynn’s field’, which they intend to develop into extra car parking spaces and open up access to the town through the arches which lead to and from Main Street.
Hopes are high in Longford that works on the county town’s major regeneration project will begin early next year. The funding of €1-million has been earmarked for Grafton Court and the shopping centre area as well as St Mel’s Road and the Market Square, as part of urban regeneration and development funding. The regeneration project includes plans to develop a link road between Little Water St and Richmond St. It is expected that this link road will open up access to further development lands in the town.
On Tuesday December 4th in King House in Boyle, ‘Through the Eyes of Margaret Cousins – Irish & Indian Suffragette’, written by Dr Keith Munro and published by Hive Studio Books, will be launched at 7 pm. The general public is invited to attend. The audience will be welcomed by the Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, Cllr Ivan Connaughton. Dr Munro, author and grand-nephew of Margaret Cousins, will then address the meeting. Cllr Orla Leyden BA M.Litt., special guest for the evening, will then launch the book.
Dr Munro previously made a promise, at the Roscommon Commemorative Lecture Programme for Vótáil 100 in April of this year, to publish a book on the life of Margaret Cousins, who was born in a house on the Crescent in Boyle on 7th November 1878. He is now fulfilling that promise.
Published during this historic year of the 100th Anniversary of ‘Votes for Women’, the book concerns the life of Margaret Cousins, known as Gretta and her husband James, an Irish poet of note. He was a contemporary and friend of such Irish poets during the cultural revival as WB Yeats, George Russel (Æ), and Padriac Colum. This book is seeing ‘through her eyes’ from diaries and notes recorded by both of them and published in their seminal work: ‘We Two Together’ Madras (1950).
Gretta and Jim, together with their friends Hanna and Frank Sheehy-Skeffington founded the Irish Women’s Franchise League. In November 1922 Gretta was invited to become the first non-Indian Magistrate in the history of India. She worked tirelessly for the rest of her life for the education of the women of India. She passed away in Adyar in Chennai in 1954 at the age of seventy-five.
This book has been endorsed by past President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, who said:
“…..This is the story of a most remarkable Irish girl from Boyle in Roscommon, who, together her husband James and the Sheehy-Skeffingtons, Frank and Hanna, founded the Irish Women’s Franchise League in 1908. Driven by her passion for women’s equality Margaret Cousins devoted the rest of her life to the education of women in India and the raising of their status. It is significant that this book is being released during this historic year of Vótáil 100”.
Dr Keith Munro MB FMO was a general practitioner (1970-2003), forensic medical officer (1970-2018, retired), and a founder member of the Foyle Hospice in Derry (1983).
If you are looking for a festive night out in the coming weeks, Roscommon Arts Centre has just the ticket. The arts centre will present the ‘Christmas Crooners’ on Friday 7th December at 8 pm. The show is jam-packed with festive favourites including Christmas hits from Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and ol’ blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.
This fantastic cast of West-End singers are backed by the superb and talented swing band: The Jazz All Stars, as they perform over thirty well know Christmas songs including: ‘Baby it’s cold outside’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘Santa baby’, ‘Rocking around the Christmas tree’, and many more.
There will also be swing arrangements of Christmas hymns and songs such as ‘Silent night’ and ‘Deck the halls’. Staged in the warm and delightful style of the famous Andy Williams Christmas Shows, this brilliant production comes complete with Christmas trees, a rocking chair, and, of course, a lovely warm fireplace; just right for roasting those chestnuts and toasting the season!
The ‘Christmas Crooners’ give the audience a show full of swinging Christmas cheer, and witty banter, a perfect show for the perfect season. Guaranteed to get you in the festive mood, come and sing along to great songs from Christmas past with the ‘Christmas Crooners’.
Tickets are available now from Roscommon Arts Centre on 09066 25824 / www.roscommonartscentre.ie
But a bitter pill to swallow as Roscommon is left without any Cabinet representation
This week, former Communications Minister Denis Naughten was vindicated by the publication of the Smyth report into the National Broadband Plan (NBP) bidding process. Fianna Fail has taken to the airwaves to call the findings of the report into questions, but responsible governance must now happen. It is time that the political point scoring stops and the National Broadband Plan happens. Denis Naughten will find it difficult to find himself at the cabinet table again any time soon, however, as many people in this region knew already, he lost his Ministry for simply trying to get an almost impossible job done in what were impossible circumstances.
The NBP has been on the agenda since 2011, and in the works since 2012. It was described at the time it was announced as being akin to the "rural electrification of the 21st century". The aim of the plan is to bring high-speed broadband to every home and business in the country where such a service is not currently available; a goal which has not been attempted by any other nation in the world.
The NBP is needed because commercial operators say it is not commercially viable to offer high-speed broadband in certain parts of the country. That’s a total of 542,000 premises or 1.1 million people which still have to be connected. The plan as it stands is to have a commercial operator roll out a physical network, with the state paying a subsidy to cover the extra cost beyond what is commercially viable. A large team in the Department of Communications, Climate Action, and Energy has been working on a complicated procurement process to get an operator to bring fibre optic cable to every one of those 542,000 homes and businesses.
The competition for the contract was whittled down to three bidders in 2016. These operators included SIRO (a joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone), Eir, and a consortium involving US technology and telecoms investment firm Granahan McCourt along with Enet and others. However, shortly after they were shortlisted, SIRO dropped out and were closely followed by Eir, leaving just the Granahan McCourt and Enet consortium. Despite the fact there was only one bidder left, the Government decided to go ahead with the procurement process. The Government had been hoping to be in a position to sign a contract by now, if the final tender from the Granahan McCourt consortium (which was submitted in September gone by), now called National Broadband Ireland, was acceptable.
Last month, it emerged that the then Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, had met David McCourt, the founder and chairman of Granahan McCourt, a number of times over the past two years, as the final stages of the procurement process were still underway. That led to further questions from the opposition and political pressure which eventually led to Denis Naughten dramatically resigning on the floor of the Dáil after the Taoiseach asked him to reflect on his position. The Taoiseach made the request of Mr Naughten after Naughten informed him that he had four, previously undisclosed, private dinners with Mr McCourt, including one in Mr McCourt’s home in Co Clare. Mr Naughten has always maintained he did nothing wrong, however, at the same time, the Taoiseach asked the independent process auditor to the National Broadband Plan, Peter Smyth, to carry out a review of the contacts between Mr Naughten and Mr McCourt. This was to allow the Government to assess whether or not the integrity of the procurement process had been undermined by the meetings between Mr McCourt and Mr Naughten.
Earlier this week, Smyth’s report was released to the public. It found that neither former Minister Naughten nor David McCourt influenced the tender process for the plan. It says the fact that the former Minister met Mr McCourt or representatives of the other bidders outside the process is not in and of itself a basis for a finding that the procurement process has been tainted. Smyth said he is satisfied that neither the former Minister nor Mr McCourt had the opportunity to influence the conduct of the tender process in favour of Granahan McCourt or otherwise. He also stated that the decision of Mr Naughten to resign insulated the process from any apparent bias created by his engagements with Mr McCourt. However, Smyth does state that the absence of formal minutes or meeting notes for a number of encounters meant he was reliant on statements from Mr Naughten and Mr McCourt and others for verifying what was said at certain meetings. Resultantly, he said he could not unequivocally state that State-led intervention under the NBP was not discussed at the meetings between the former minister and Mr McCourt outside the procurement process.
New Minister for Communications, Richard Bruton, having considered the report, has said that the government has given the go-ahead for his department to continue the ongoing evaluation of the tender submitted by National Broadband Ireland. The bid consists of circa 20,000 pages of documents including technical and financial solutions. It still is not clear when that process will be concluded. It is understood that the tender evaluation process has been continuing alongside the Smyth review, and the government is anxious to make a decision soon. When the procurement team has finished its evaluation, it will present its findings to the Minister, who will then bring a recommendation to Cabinet to either accept or reject the tender. In all likelihood, whatever the tender ends up being, it will be accepted by Cabinet. The Government cannot afford to not deliver on this plan, and if they do deliver, no matter how late, it will be a huge political goal achieved.
It seems as though the government’s preference is to try to make the current process work. To scrap it and return to the drawing board at this stage would possibly see the project abandoned, and will do them no favours on the doorsteps. With a potential election always looming in the background, the Government knows it must have something definitive to sell when it sends it troops out on the trail. There have been plenty of calls for work to start on a ‘Plan B’, particularly by the opposition parties. Many in the opposition have expressed concerns that the current process is flawed and that the only remaining bidder may not be in a position to deliver what is required, although there is no reason to believe that they do not have the technical or financial capacity to deliver, particularly with the assistance of a state subsidy. It has been suggested that perhaps a semi-state organisation like ESB Networks or Ervia could be directed to take on the delivery of broadband to rural Ireland. However, within the industry, there’s a lot of scepticism around whether that would be realistic, and many have noted it may, in fact, be in breach of state-aid rules.
Another suggestion which has gained traction in recent weeks is that instead of trying to build a physical infrastructure; bringing fibre optic cable to every premises in the country, the government should be reconsidering the use of mobile or wireless technology instead, those advocating this approach note that since 2012 these technologies have improved significantly and may now be an even better option in some circumstances. Advocates state that the mobile or wireless approach might be cheaper and quicker to deploy, particularly if the country were to be divided up into smaller pockets, with different technological solutions for different areas. Naturally, there are differing views on whether mobile technology would be adequate in the future.
All these developments have come to the fore alongside leaked reports that the cost of the National Broadband Plan as currently envisaged may have exploded to as much as €3-billion, from the €500-million which was originally envisaged. Again, there are varying views within the telecoms industry about the possible quantum of the bill, but most seem to think that €3-billion figure is very much on the high side of the scale. This week, the Minister for Finance said that National Development Plan funding could also be used to deliver broadband to rural Ireland. The question on everyone’s lips now is, how much will the final bill be? That is a question which will be answered in the coming weeks when we find out whether the National Broadband Ireland consortium’s tender has been accepted.
Deputy Denis Naughten released the following statement on Tuesday of this week: “I welcome the findings of the independent audit report by Mr Peter Smyth which concludes that I ‘did not influence or seek to influence’ the conduct of the tender process in favour of Granahan McCourt and further concludes that the process has not been ‘tainted’. I welcome the conclusion of Mr Smyth’s report not only for myself but for the 1.2 million people in rural Ireland waiting to be connected to high-speed broadband.”
Naughten explained that he did not breach any protocols by engaging with McCourt, stating: “It should be noted that Mr Smyth also concludes that the ‘communications protocol for the procurement process for the State-led intervention under the NBP does not expressly prohibit engagements between the bidders (or individual members of a bidding consortium) and the Department’. As Minister, my job required me to meet investors from all sectors under the remit of my former Department whether they were investors from telecoms, renewable energy, environment or natural resources. These investors are the men and women who provide jobs in our country.”
In his statement, Naughten detailed that it is important to note that a Competitive Dialogue Procurement Process requires dialogue and Mr Smyth’s report details the significant level of engagement that the Department has been expertly managing since the process began. He stated: “My sole objective throughout this process, during my time as Minister, was to deliver much-promised broadband to rural Ireland... I hope that once this procurement process has been completed that the remaining homes, farms and businesses will get access to this technology.
Naugthen concluded his statement with a firm warning to the government and his fellow opposition TDs: “This should now be the only goal of our government and members of Dáil Éireann at this point and I urge colleagues not to succumb to those who want to make a political issue of the NBP for their own ends and not that of the country as a whole.”
While many will say that Naughten was naïve to be caught out like this, the reality is that he was a Minister trying to flog a dead-horse at a marker with only one bidder in the audience. All the great commentators in the national theatre, some of whom have sat at the Cabinet table and overseen much greater ‘clust-astrophes’ than this, can say what they like. I don’t think there is a single one of them who would have done anything differently, and many of them wouldn’t have had the bottle to stand down and insulate the process, as Naughten has done.
My suspicion is that the leaked cost of €3-billion is nowhere near the amount which will be announced. If the government is smart, they’ll have leaked this unholy number to brace people for a slightly less bad situation, they’ll probably announce a number in the region of €1.5-billion, and pat themselves on the back that it was half what it could have been, despite being three-times more than what they said it would be. Also, we cannot forget the age-old trick. Announce the headline figure, and after 12-months, when you’re too far up the bog road to put it into reverse, announce that more money is needed. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I will be.
Julie Sharkey, who hails from Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon, will showcase a rehearsed reading of her play ‘Chicken Wings in Peace’ on Thursday 29th November at 7 pm in the studio space of Roscommon Arts Centre.
Julie, who is a writer and performer, has been researching small family run businesses in the West of Ireland as the basis for her new work. Throughout the process, Julie has been mentored by writer, actor, and creator of ‘The Man in The Woman’s Shoes’, Mikel Murfi.
‘Chicken Wings in Peace’ tells the story of Bridie, who has married into a small family run business, but the love and enthusiasm she once felt for her life here, becomes overshadowed by a shocking family tragedy, lost love, and economic downturn. The play examines how historical and romantic attachments to a family business can make any step away from it, almost impossible.
On the night, actors Grace Kiely, Aidan Crowe, and Brendan Conroy will bring Julie’s text to life on stage. All are welcome to attend the performance. Admission is free but as capacity is limited pre-booking is advised through the arts centre box office on 09066 25824.
The National Patient Experience Survey (NPES) 2018 results, details patients’ experience in our nation’s hospitals. This year, Roscommon University Hospital has received top marks in the survey, with 91% of participants saying that they had good or very good overall experience at the hospital. This is well above the national average of which came in at 84%. However, the report also noted that there were a number of areas, in the hospital, which need improvements. The two issues which were raised most regularly with respect to Roscommon University Hospital related to the choice of food offered and a lack of clear answers from medical staff about operations and treatments.
Complaints over food and not being treated with respect were some of the issues which patients raised at some of our other local hospitals. In contrast to the A grade received by Roscommon University hospital, patients at Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar and Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe rated their satisfaction a number of points lower than the 2017 survey.
Portiuncula Hospital received a drop in satisfaction of 53% compared to the 2017 survey, receiving a rating of just 44% from patients. The survey also noted that patients who rated their stay at the hospital as fair to poor increased from 18% to 23%. The survey noted one patient also claimed that they felt the nurses had a large workload and noted that it was hard to find a nurse, especially in the evening time.
At the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore several areas of good experience were identified, while at Sligo University Hospital patients rated their experience significantly higher than the national average across every stage of care, with a number of exceptions.
Galway University Hospital saw a number of patients report that they were not treated with respect and dignity. The complaints related to both the emergency department and in other areas of the hospital. In contrast, also at GUH, patients said that they had confidence and trust in the staff that treated them, while most patients said that staff did everything they could, to manage their pain.
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