IRISH ARMY AT HILLSBOROUGH

30.06
2012

Trumpeters from the Irish Army

Another historic week in Northern Ireland. Two days after Queen Elizabeth stayed at Hillsborough Castle during her diamond jubilee celebrations, the Defence Forces (Irish Army) No. 1 Band appeared at an official engagement in the North for the first time. Two trumpeters sounded a fanfare as the Lord Lieutenant for Belfast Dame Mary Peters arrived at the front entrance. A location that has been the setting for several important events during the peace process. Under the baton of Lt Colonel Mark Armstrong, Director of the School of Music, the band entertained guests at Hillsborough at a garden party. The event was the climax in a year of celebrations for Belfast Rotary Club, marking its centenary. The band combined at one stage with the Abbey Singers from Newtownabbey in a good example of North/South co-operation. The North’s Justice Minister David Ford was among the guests.

Lt Col Mark Armstrong & David Ford MLA, NI Justice Minister

He took the opportunity to congratulate the band on their appearance. Over 600 guests attended the charity event, with 75% of the takings going towards Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign and the balance going to local charities. The band played a selection of tunes including marches and they delighted the large attendance. Guests were also able to enjoy a stroll in the Castle grounds as the entertainment took place. Happily the sun shone as the band played. The Rotarians included the current Belfast President Dr Adrian Kerr and the incoming President Alan Rundle, whose father was President fifty years ago. Alan is an optician and I should declare an interest as he is the person I get my glasses from! I passed on the congratulations of Belfast Lions Club on this special occasion. I was also pleased to meet my former neighbour from Ardilea in Dublin, Mark Doyle, who is President of Dublin Rotary Club.

Belfast Lions Club President Michael Fisher & Dublin Rotary President Mark Doyle.

Like the Lions, both Dublin and Belfast have long-standing ties and the event at Hillsborough has served to strengthen North/South ties.  It was nice to meet several Rotarians from the Republic. The District Governor for Ireland Barney Callaghan is from Limerick and there were also members there from Wexford and Dun Laoghaire.

Belfast Lions President Michael Fisher & Rotary President Dr Adrian Kerr

UP DOWN

24.06
2012
Down v Monaghan in Ulster senior championship semi-final

MONAGHAN 1-13 DOWN 1-14. A last minute victory for Down by a single point against Monaghan. Benny Coulter came on as a sub in the closing stages and scored a vital point. But Tommy Freeman scored a great opportunist goal for Monaghan in the second half after a pass by Conor McManus from a quickly-taken free. Monaghan dominated the first 35 minutes in all departments until they gave away a penalty in added time just before the break. Aidan Carr scored from the spot to make it at half time Monaghan 0-11 Down 1-02. At one stage Monaghan were rampant and led by nine points. But it was a different story in the second half and Down manager James McCartan must have given his team a spirited talk in the dressing room at the break. Down: A Carr 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), D O’Hare 0-5 (5f), C Laverty 0-2, K Duffin, L Doyle (f), B Coulter, D O’Hagan, A Rogers (f) 0-1 each. Monaghan: T Freeman 1-0, C McManus (3f) 0-5, P Finlay (3f) 0-5, D Hughes 0-2 (1f, 1 ’45), D Clerkin 0-1.

Monaghan huddle


Workout by Monaghan

Pre-match parade

All over

TYDAVNET TRACTORCADE

11.06
2012

Kevin McCarron

Ready for the vintage run

Monaghan vintage tractor and car run on Sunday. The procession of vehicles left Kevin McCarron’s field in Tydavnet going through the village into Monaghan and then Threemilehouse where refreshments were provided before returning to Tydvanet via Scotstown. The event was organised in aid of Monaghan branch MS and Drumkill day centre Threemilehouse (Alzheimer Society). Thanks to all who participated or gave donations. It’s understood a sum of over €6000 has already been collected.

Tydavnet tractor run

 

Tydavnet tractor run

One of the local tractors taking part in the “tractorcade” and vintage car run driven by Willie Harry.

Tydavnet tractor run

 

 

EMYVALE GP CYCLING IN TYDAVNET CO.MONAGHAN

31.05
2012
First race ready for the off: Under 12

There was plenty of excitement around Tydavnet on Sunday as dozens of cyclists and their back-up supporters arrived for the annual Grand Prix races organised by Emyvale Cycling Club. The Community Centre was used for registration and adminstration. The sun shone brightly and the temperature climbed up to 25C as the junior races got underway over a shorter route. The Under 12s were first off, although a car parked outside the chapel on the start/finish line caused the organisers a few problems initially until the owner was located. The crowd was not as big as for last year’s national championships. Nevertheless there were visitors taking part from several counties including Donegal (Errigal CC), Cork (Kanturk), Tyrone (Coalisland), Derry (Roe Valley) and East Antrim.

On the start line at Tydavnet chapel

Cyclists also came from Dublin and Newry and the local riders from Emyvale were also there battling for the prizes in the various categories. The event was well organised with stewarding to ensure that roads were kept clear for the participants. Following the thrilling finish in the senior race in the senior event last year in Scotstown, it was decided that a village finish would once again be more exciting for the spectators. For the full list of results, go to the Cycling Ulster page. East Antrim’s Glen Kinning won the main event over a 60 miles course in a sprint finish from David Wherity of Stamullen, Co.Meath.

Under 14s getting ready for the start

NEWRY ALERT

24.05
2012

Security alert beside Derrybeg estate

Part of the Camlough Road from the Egyptian arch roundabout to Monaghan Street in Newry was sealed off on Thursday afternoon following a bomb alert. British Army bomb experts were called to examine a suspect device in what is believed to be the old graveyard area close to Daisy Hill hospital. Traffic was diverted but access to the hospital was not affected. A PSNI helicopter also examined the scene. A controlled explosion was carried out on the package and it was declared to be a hoax. One policeman was slightly injured when petrol bombs and bricks were thrown at the PSNI. Sinn Féin and the SDLP condemned the incidents. SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley said the hoax alert which had disrupted the community yet again was deplorable.He said it was compounded by the disgusting acts of those who attacked police with bricks, stones and petrol bombs, endangering lives and adding to the pressure they were under as they attempted to protect the community. He said it was particularly galling that all this took place close to Daisy Hill Hospital and on a route which would affect the city centre, disrupting commuters and, most worryingly, those trying to get to a place of treatment. Events like these do nothing to further any cause and are to the detriment of everyone, he added. The Mayor of Newry Sinn Féin’s Charlie Casey, told BBC Radio Ulster he believed the violence against the police was “opportunistic” and unconnected to the hoax. He added that the incident was the second or third security alert in the area in recent months. “If some of those rioters, or the people responsible for the hoax, had relatives who necessitated going to Daisy Hill by ambulance in an emergency, what were they to do?” he asked.

An ambulance is diverted en route to Daisy Hill hospital

WILLIAM CARLETON SUMMER SCHOOL

02.05
2012

Mayor of Dungannon Cllr Kenneth Reid & Michael Fisher

It promises to be an interesting four days in the Clogher Valley in August. The William Carleton Society’s summer school programme was launched at a reception kindly hosted by the Mayor of Dungannon & South Tyrone Cllr Kenneth Reid (who opened last year’s school) at the Council offices in Dungannon. Once again we are please to have booked Corick House Hotel in Clogher as the venue for 2012. The school will be officially opened on Monday 6th August and the keynote address by Professor CORMAC Ó GRÁDA is on the subject of “Carleton & others on famine’s darkest secret”. Dr MELISSA FEGAN (Chester) will speak about Carleton & the famine era. In the afternoon I am due to give a lecture on Carleton’s biographer DJ O’Donoghue, based on my researches at the UCD archive. The afternoon is rounded off on a lighter note with a reflection by County Tyrone native BARRY DEVLIN on life after Horslips. Tuesday’s events will start with a talk by the Society’s Vice-Chair FRANK McHUGH on Carleton’s Australian relatives. JOSEPHINE TREANOR from Knockatallon, Co.Monaghan, who joined us on the walk last year, will talk about her distant relation, Anne Duffy, the miller’s daughter (mentioned by Carleton). The Leitrim poet JOHN F. DEANE will give a reading from his works before lunch. The afternoon session begins with a performance by LAURENCE FOSTER (Dublin) of his one man show on Charles Dickens, who was born 200 years ago. For this year’s literary symposium we have invited CARLO GÉBLER from Fermanagh and MARY GUCKIAN a poet originally from Leitrim who attended the Carleton commemoration in Dublin in January. They will be joined by Monaghan native MARY O’DONNELL, a writer and poet, whose work has appeared in a number of collections. On Wednesday 8th August Dr SOPHIA HILLAN will speak on Jane Austen’s Irish nieces. Professor OWEN DUDLEY EDWARDS, the summer school honorary director, will give us his own unique insights into the work of William Carleton. Committee member LIAM FOLEY has once again adapted one of Carleton’s works for a reading: this year it will be “Phil Purcel the Pig Driver” followed by a discussion. The final act of the summer school will see CHRISTOPHER FITZ-SIMON, a former artistic director at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, reflect on “Carleton on the stage: forgotten popular plays adapted from Traits & Stories”. Thursday 8th will be the day for a tour of the local area led by JACK JOHNSTON, Society President. The theme will be Carleton & his contemporaries, including Archbishop Hughes of New York. There will be a visit to his birthplace beside the border with Co.Monaghan and to Omagh.

Photograph of D.J.O'Donoghue (left) and George Sigerson (right) beside the pond in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin, when choosing a site for the Mangan Memorial.

The evening events include: Monday:  Rathmore Bar Clogher Maguire family (traditional music); PJ Kennedy, poet (Belturbet) 9pm. Tuesday: Walk & talk Carleton with the Clogher Valley walking club to Fardross forest  & Music by The Mountain Lark (Tydavnet) & reception at caravan park  8:30pm Wednesday: Concert with Fermanagh Choral Society (conductor Don Swain) at  St Patrick’s church Clogher 8pm. More details at:   www.williamcarletonsummerschool.org

60 MILES FOR 60 YEARS COMPLETED!

30.04
2012

Day 1 departing from Kingsmeadow

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I undertook to walk 60 miles (one for each of my 60 years) to fundraise for charities. In Dublin I took part in the Milltown 25 walk, marking the exile of Shamrock Rovers FC from Glenmalure Park at Milltown quarter of a century ago. The 6 mile (10k) walk was to the new stadium at Tallaght. Back in Belfast, I completed another 5 miles by walking from home into town and back as part of my preparation for the major challenge. As a founder member of the Dons Trust (supporting AFC Wimbledon) I participated in the fifth Walk Further for Wimbledon. This year the route on the London outer orbital path  covered 50 miles over three days, starting at Kingsmeadow and finishing at Underhill, North London, in time to watch the league 2 match between Barnet (who had just dismissed former Dons’ FA Cup hero Lawrie Sanchez as manager) and AFC Wimbledon. Last year’s walk finished at Kingsmeadow in time for the final match of the season (40 miles over two days) but this time it ended at an away game.

Arriving at Underhill

What was even more painful after the walk was completed was to watch AFC Wimbledon being thumped by the Bees 4-0!  As a member of Belfast Lions Club I am also fundraising for the Moorfields Lions Korle Bu eyesight project in Ghana, a trust chaired by Past International Director Lion Howard Lee. The walk began on Thursday 26th April at 9:15 am and finished on Saturday 28th around 1:15pm. Thanks to my fellow walkers for the company on most of the route and for lending a helping hand when needed. I am also grateful to those who have already made donations via my JustGiving page.

MONAGHAN STAGES RALLY

24.04
2012

The roar of car engines filled Tydavnet parish and the surrounding area as Monaghan Motor Club held their annual stages rally. Many minor roads were closed to facilitate the event, but main roads and secondary roads were kept open. However if your house was on the rally route and you don’t like fast cars, you might certainly have felt somewhat inconvenienced as the roads were closed from 9am for nearly ten hours. It can also be a dangerous sport. Ten years ago in the Dunlop rally championship a competitor was killed in a crash near Scotstown and the event was immediately cancelled. During Mass at St Dympna’s Fr Clerkin prayed for the safety of all. The congregation was smaller than usual because of the rally, but most people were able to reach the chapel in time. Safety of drivers and spectators is an important consideration at such events. It was noticeable that the Clerk of the Course and former winner Dessie Keenan from Drumcoo Woods had a team of stewards at all the important viewing points and that spectators were kept a reasonable distance from the cars. There were plenty of thrills and a few spills along the route. The stages were centred on the Milltown and Tydavnet area up towards the border at Drumfurrer. The next section was around Bragan mountain and a third section of stages saw the cars tackle roads around Scotstown, Smithborough and Ballinode, which proved a popular spot to view the rally.

Damage to wall of house at Corrinshigo, Scotstown
When I heard in Knockatallon that one car almost ended up in the kitchen sink at a house, I thought the report might be exaggerated. But on viewing the damage at the scene at Corrinshigo, this is exactly what happened as Strabane driver Aidan Caldwell’s car left the road, hitting a wall and ending up in the yard beside a window! Luckily the occupant of the bungalow was not inside at the time. But she said if it had been a year ago, her sister and her young children might have been outside watching the cars going past. The driver and his navigator also escaped serious injury. But it was a reminder that such events are not without their dangers.
Local drivers inclusing the Moffetts performed well on their home circuit, although three times national rally champion Niall Maguire from Ballinode was forced out with gearbox problems. The rally was won by Daniel McKenna from Scotshouse in an Escort with navigator Andrew Grennan. They were fortunate to finish the event, as they were caught out by a sudden shower of rain on the sixth of nine stages, spinning backwards into a bank and losing half a minute before they could restart. They finished two minutes ahead of Sam Moffett and were presented with their prize at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan, which sponsored the event and provided a headquarters for the organisers.

Daniel McKenna, winner 2012 Monaghan stages rally

 

PAT FINUCANE CASE & DEALING WITH THE PAST

20.04
2012

Speaking at an engagement in Belfast at the University of Ulster, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny has repeated his support for a full public enquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane. The well-known solicitor was shot dead by the UFF in front of his family at his home in North Belfast on February 12th 1989. It was one of the murders I reported on during the troubles and this was among the most high-profile cases. Standing beside the police cordon a well-known BBC reporter came over to me and my cameraman and said “you know who it is?”. He then told me it was Pat Finucane. I had interviewed the lawyer a few times, including at a controversial inquest at Craigavon courthouse. According to the BBC’s Political Correspondent Martina Purdy, Mr Kenny said relations between the British and Irish governments had never been closer, but there were areas where there was a difference of opinion. Paying tribute to Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine for the way she has campaigned with “great dignity and courage”, Mr Kenny said he supported her in the campaign for a full public inquiry into the killing.

Geraldine Finucane addressed an ICTU-NI fringe meeting in Derry.

An emotional Geraldine Finucane told a well-attended fringe meeting of trade unionists in Derry on Tuesday night that dealing with her husband’s case was an absolute necessity if progress is to continue in Northern Ireland. Mrs Finucane said she had no confidence in a Cory2 process suggested by the British government into her husband’s murder.  She told the meeting the way the Prime Minister David Cameron dealt with the issue showed that the promises of the British government can easily be broken. Clearly still affected by the circumstances of last October’s meeting in London, Geraldine Finucane said she and her family had been lured to Downing Street under false pretences by a disreputable government led by a disreputable man. She said the let-down by David Cameron over the prospect of a full enquiry was one of most cruel & devastating experiences she had had since her campaign began. As RTÉ News reported at the time, Mr Cameron proposed that instead of the full inquiry into allegations of security force collusion suggested by Judge Cory, that a QC should undertake a review of the case. Mrs Finucane had been told in late summer that the Prime Minister wanted to meet her and she said she had been encouraged at the time by the offer of engagement with her family, following the lengthy delay in following up a commitment made originally to the family in the Weston Park talks in 2001.

Alan McBride from the WAVE trauma centre in Belfast who lost his wife and father-in-law in the IRA Shankill bombing also spoke about his own experience. He said the past was not going to go away and he supported the Finucane family’s right to have a full public enquiry. Alan also described how on a visit to the United States alongside some republicans, a former IRA man had told him he was sorry for the Shankill bomb and what happened was wrong. He had helped to humanise his loss, he said, and had acknowledged my pain. Former ICTU President Inez McCormack also addressed the meeting. As NI Secretary of UNISON she had helped to set up the handshake in West Belfast between the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and President Mary Robinson in June 1993 at Rupert Stanley College. I remember that occasion as one when the media were kept firmly outside the door in order to ensure that no pictures of the handshake were taken. Yet it was a defining moment in the lead-up to the IRA ceasefire the following year. Here is one account of the occasion from the Independent.UPDATE: The News Letter reports that the Taoiseach’s comments were strongly criticised by the UUP chair Lord Empey and MLA Danny Kennedy.

NO NORTHERNERS NEED APPLY

16.04
2012

Euro2012 Poland-Ukraine

The headline looks appealing: win an InterRail trip for two to Euro 2012. Come on you boys in green! Iarnród Éireann is offering Ireland soccer fans the chance to win a trip to the European football championship, travelling overland from Ireland to Poland. The prize includes tickets for two to Ireland’s three Group games against Croatia, Spain and Italy, courtesy of North Dublin Schoolboys & Schoolgirls League and spending money of €1,000. The winner will be accommodated at a campsite at Poznan. Interested? Then all you have to do is to submit a sample blog post about a journey you have taken or a sporting event you have attended. Looks great. But I always believe in looking at the small print (terms and conditions). It seems that if you are an Ireland soccer fan from the six counties of Northern Ireland, then too bad, you can’t apply! Rule 3: “Applicants must be 18 years of age or over, and must be resident in the Republic of Ireland”. So if you are an Ireland fan from Newry, Portadown, Lurgan, Lisburn or Belfast, or perhaps a Derry City supporter following the club in the airtricity League, then sorry, you can’t apply, unless you happen to live in Donegal, Cavan. Monaghan or anywhere else in the Republic. This is a clear case of discrimination, where marketing people have not acknowledged the fact that hundreds of Ireland supporters are resident in some cases a few hundred yards across the border along the railway line between Dublin and Belfast. Yet they are not allowed to enter this competition. If you feel excluded then perhaps you should contact competitions@irishrail.ie and complain. But you need to do so immediately as the closing date for the competition is April 27th. Although I raised this matter with @IrishRail on twitter this morning I have not had any response. Sure I’m only a Northern Ireland resident and of course I would never use Iarnród Éireann or ever think about supporting Ireland as I did at Euro 1988 in Germany……

I can see the Republic of Ireland from here (Co.Tyrone) but I can't enter an Irish Rail compeition!

UPDATE: As the comments below show, the blog attracted a response within hours from Iarnród Éireann defending the terms and conditions for the competition. The issue was also taken up by other outlets including Slugger and BBC NI News website. After the response from the rail company, the following thought occurred. Their marketing experts in designing a competition for RoI residents ONLY did not take into account natives of counties along the border such as Monaghan who might follow their airtricity premier league team as well as the national side, but who happened to reside across the border eg in Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Middletown or Roslea. I was therefore glad to see that a Monaghan and border region perspective was added by Frank McNally in An Irishman’s Diary in The Irish Times.