Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Really Begins-Bell, Book and Candle in the Cathedral

Last Sunday was the night when the Christmas season begins in style for a Kilkenny City councillor. The annual 'Nine Carols and Nine Lessons' service of the Church of Ireland community, but open to all takes place in the wonderful setting of St. Canice's Cathedral. It was presided over by the relatively new bishop, Michael Burrowes, whose consecration I unfortunately missed in February last. The singing by the cathedral choir, and by children from the Model National School was uplifting and the ideal start to the real Christmas-that of the sacred rather than the shopping frenzy and all that other madness.

The real treat came at the end of the night however, when we were invited into the bell tower, quiet a climb from the main church, where the bell ringers or 'change ringers' showed us their art in action. This was the first time that our council was invited into the private area of the church in its 400 year history. We then climbed a little higher to see the actual bells, which are up to 500 years old. Thanks a million to all the change ringers for their hospitality. I'd love to get there for the annual new year's ceremony on new year's eve at 11.30, followed by the midnight ringing of the bells.

By the way thanks to Harry Reid for the magic photos.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Murder in our midst-Sad farewell to Alan

I always said I'd try to blog it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yesterday and today have had very little of the first, but far too much of the second and third. The murder of Alan Cunniffe, less than a quarter of a mile from our front door has left the city in shock, and me as a private citizen, and as a public representative deeply upset. In my 41 years so far, I've never personally known a person who was murdered until now, and I've also rarely known somebody with whom I struck up a genuine friendship in such a short time.

Alan was of course the son of a wonderful Roscommon man. Tom was the first Kilkenny City person I met when I was 'courting'. A trip to Tom's shop in John's Green resulted in my Kerry accent being immediately detected. Thus started a half-hour conversation about the 1980 All-Ireland final when Roscommon had thrown us the fourth of the 4 in a row. It also began a 15 year pattern of chats about football, which got more frequent when I moved here 5 years ago. You couldn't help liking Tom, and it was no surprise that Alan turned out to be a chip off the old block when he took over the reins last year, after Tom's early death from cancer.

The last 24 hours have been surreal. I had my last of almost daily chats with Alan on Thursday night when I picked up a few bits and pieces from the shop. In one of those moments which typified Alan, he sold a lotto ticket to the customer before me, and pressed a wrong button giving extra by mistake. He said he would buy the mistaken ticket himself, but I offered to buy my first lotto ticket in years. As I was the last customer of the night, Alan thanked me profusely for covering his mistake as he saw it. We had a brief chat and Alan asked after Mar and the kids, as always. Only a few nights earlier, Alan had spotted me walking away from the locked shop door a couple of minutes after closure at 9 o' clock. He immediately ran to reopen for the bottle of wine I wanted, not to make more money, but to provide a service to a customer. That summed him up.

I didn't believe yesterday that Alan would pass away in the few hours he was battling in St. Luke's Hospital. Talking to friends and neighbours today, they stressed the huge efforts made to save Alan's life. As for why Alan engaged his killer, who are we to know what entered Alan's mind in those fatal seconds or minutes. What I do know for sure is that protecting his family business, his workers interests, and standing up for all that is best in life was what Alan was all about.

This weekend is a tear-filled one for all of us in Kilkenny who were lucky enough to have known Alan as a friend, neighbour, and business man with a heart of gold. To his Mum Muriel, his brothers Declan, James, Enda and Thomas and to his sisters Anne, Muriel and Emily my heart-felt sympathy. Gan aon dabht oireann an sean ráiteas do Thomás Ó Criomhthain do Alan-'Ni bheidh a leithéid aris ann'. Slán go fóill Alan, go gcifimid a chéile aris.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ceol Beo-Na Flowers hit town

I've blogged here about Hothouse Flowers in the past. They're my favourite Irish band of the 80's, and they have remained consistently one of the hardest-working bands of the nineties and early 21st century. It's hard to believe it's 22 years since the lads appeared as 'Fonn Tonn' to win Slógadh, singing blues as Gaeilge with a batch of trumpets, sax players etc. in a Blues Brothers set-up. They won the Dublin final by beating a John Denver/Stockton's Wing sub-standard set-up fronted by the current Deputy Mayor of Kilkenny!!

Soon after they were playing a very popular support to Fleetwood Mac open-air in the RDS, and seemed set to follow U2 as our next big breakthrough in international music. Despite the success of 'Don't Go', and a string of great songs, it never seemed to quite happen on that scale, but the lads remained huge favourites with Irish listeners, playing some of the best live shows I've ever seen.

They put on a great show last night in Lyrath Hotel, despite a very disappointing turnout on the stormy night it was. The sign of true pro's is that they always give it their all, and this politician and music fan has sore legs today from the bopping.

Mar leaideanna a labhair Gaeilge go fliúrseach, mar an chéad ghlúin do Ghaelscolaiocht sa tir, bhiodar mar eiseamláiri domsa agus mo chomhleacaithe a raibh ag casadh ar ais i dtreo na teangan. Choimeádadar dilis chomh maith don gceol traidisiúnta, á mheascadh mar chuid lárnach dár gceol úr féinigh.

Tá baint ar leith agam féin leis an ngrúpa, mar gur thugas ceann dos na céad gigs dóibh a sheineadar go poibli, i gcoláiste Froebel cúpla seachtain i ndiaidh dóibh Slógadh a bhuachaint. Nios tábhachtai fós, mhúineas cailini Fiachna Ó Braonáin agus Jadzia dár ndóigh (Kasia agus Liadain) i nGaelscoil Osrai. Is daoine iontacha iad araon.

Liam of course also gave us great help with the campaign against RTÉ's removal of the Rattlebag programme.

Revisiting that particular episode, I have given Derek Mooney a very patient few months, but I have to say that the programme is dire. The mish-mash of reality singing lessons, inane quizes and MOR music is exactly what we all feared. The promise to include loads of coverage of local arts events has disappeaered from my limited listening. The only saving grace is the Friday afternoon 'Mooney goes wild' section, which was already there anyway on Saturday. Meanwhile, the late-night arts offering by Pádraig Breathnach has great content, but how many people are listening. Even sombody like me who loves the arts rarely has the energy or inclination to listen so late. It will be interesting to see the next detailed JNLR figures. Maybe RTÉ and Anna Leddy might then have the good grace to admit they were wrong, and give us back Rattlebag or a similar programme in the waking hours.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Anyone for Cricket?

Was at a fascinating book launch tonight. A new book has been released by one of the Kilkenny Archaeological and Historical Society's luminaries, Michael O' Dwyer, my former neighbour from College Road. Micahel has dedicated a number of years of his life to researching the history of cricket in Kilkenny. Far from being the sport of the wealthy in the county, or the sport exclusively of the protestant ascendancy, Michael's book, 'The History of Cricket in County Kilkenny-The forgotten game' details the over 200 clubs which at one time or another, saw cricket as the universal game in their communities.

Areas like Gowran indeed had active cricket clubs until the mid 50's, before their hurling clubs were even established. Indeed as Michael's friend Peter McQuillan, wittingly infromed the large gathering of people present tonight, a certain J. Carey scored 25 runs against the Palmerstown club from the city in 1970. We don't know for sure if there is a connstion to the God of hurling, bet we do know that uncles of the Henderson clan of Johnstown and now some connections with the Dicksboro hurling club, (who play at Palmerstown!), were prominent cricketers, as were uncles of the famous Fennelly family of Ballyhale Shamrocks, whose family played a prominent role in taking this year's County Championship, and scooping the Leinster club title last Sunday. Other famous hurling familes included the great Lowry Meagher's father, Henry J., who we were told hit the ball into the next field during a game against Mullinahone. Interestingly Henry was present at the founding meeting of the GAA in Hayes Hotel, Thurles in 1884.

My own only connection with cricket in Kilkenny was the wonderful Jack Notley, twice capped Ireland rugby full back, but a man who was also cappped for Ireland in cricket. Jack moved to Kilkenny in the early 50's and having spent a few night's in my wife's home, the then Carmel Hotel, with Marian's mother and father, decided not to leave, only to stay till the day the hotel was sold, over 40 years later!! Jack was a gentleman of the oldest sort, and never tired of talking, and encouraging anybody, particularly young people in their interest in any sport. How Jack would have loved to read Michael's wonderful production. You should do if you get the chance.
Another nice touch was the message received from Ed Joyce, Ireland's new cricket superstar. The young Bray man has an uncle in Kilkenny, teacher Tomás Ó Murchú, who handed Michael a personal message, faxed from the Ashes in Australia, where he is the first Irishman for many years to feature on the world atage of cricket, albeit for the ould enemy. He recorded his memories, and he's hardly old enough for memories, of cricket in Mount Juliet in his youth.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Support the Make Room Campaign, ending homelessness in Ireland by 2010

I'm delighted that the Labour Party has formally backed the Make Room campaign, launched recently by some of our major voluntary organisations dealing with the homeless. The organisations include Simon, one of the first charity organisations I became aware of. It also includes Focus Ireland, the other voluntary body doing work with young homeless people in particular , and set up by that indomitable Kerrywoman, Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy. Stan, as she's known, spent a lot of time in Kilkenny where the late Bishop Birch was pioneering the Catholic church's social development structure.
The other two groups are the Saint Vincent de Paul charity, who have a presence in every parish in the country, and finally the Threshold group who have done so much to advance the rights of tenants. Please take the time to sign up and pledge your support to the campaign now, and try to make homelessness a thing of the past by 2010.
From my own experience, the problem of sub-standard private rented accomodation is becoming worse, and the failure of both our own local authorities and central Government to register and inspect this type of accomodation is a local and national disgrace. Of course, building social and affordable housing is the real answer to homelessness, particularly for young people, who are increasingly being forced to live at home with their parents until well into their twenties.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth-Get out and see it

I' m delighted to have persuaded the management of our local cinema, Kilkenny Cineplex to show the controversial movie featuring former US Vice-President Al Gore's environmental campaign against global warming. The movie called 'An Inconvenient Truth' has captured the imagination of people around the world, and if the trailers are anything to go by it is a must-see film. It begins in the cinema tomorrow evening (Friday 10th and runs for a week, finishing on Thursday next). Unfortunately the last sitting is at 6.30 pm at the moment but this may change depending on demand.

Thanks to Anthony Hogan, the local manager and the parent company in Dublin for their response. We always seem to have to fight to get so-called minority films, with just the commercial stuff being given to us here. I had hoped for just one night, but the company reacted positively quickly.

Please get along to see the movie as quickly as you can and encourage others to do so. It's a General certificate, so an ideal opportunity for families to get along and learn together. I'll be there on Monday night, and hope to have a gang organised to do likewise.

An indication of the seriousness and impact of the movie is Gore's appointment to head up the British campaign against global warming. Tony Blair has appointed Gore to front the camaign after the damning Stern Report last week. He'll have to start by getting his own President to wake up and face up to the oil barons first though. That might be a bit easier after the US voters put some manners on him this week!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Addicted to Politics

Hi, my name is Seán and I'm addicted to politics! I've just been proclaimed mad by my wife who's witnessing me following the inner workings of the US House and Senate elections late into the night. The fact that we can get excited by exit polls from Virginia, Alaska and Vermont shows how much of an influence this country's politics has on all our lives. Hopefully it will be a good night for the Democrats, and Bush will lose control of both houses. This will see the start hopefully of a push to see the Presidency return to the Democrats in 2008.

My favourite candidate is Illinois Senator Barack Obama, whose star is on the rise in the party and the country and who is a good bet for America's first black President. His book, 'Dreams from my Father' is one of the best reads I have ever had, and he may just make up a dream ticket with Hillary Clinton, with her becoming the first woman VP hopefully.

One of the interesting things about US politics thesee days is the impact of the net and blogging in particular. I'm now watching Howard Dean on MSNBC, a man who made huge use of blogging in the run-up to the last Presidential election. Blogging parties are all the rage tonight including one hosted by CNN-how about it RTÉ during next summer's election? We wouldn't mind sipping a few glasses of vino in Donnybrook- I'm actually enjoying Los Robles, a wonderful Fair Trade wine from Chilé as we speak-God Bless Superquinn!

By the way have a look at one of the better US blogs I've seen, which amazingly is called Crooks and Liars- Nothing to do with politics surely!

Who's this Sanders Guy- A Socialist in the US Senate!!

It's incredible that we finally have a Socialist Senator in the US after it seems that Bernie Sanders is going to romp home tonight in the state of Vermont. The home of skiing, timber and liberal/left-wing politics has taken another brave decision by electing this colourful character. May we see more soon. Have a look at Bernie's site to see how what sounds so radical over there would seem so normal over here!!

Venceremos-Ortega is back!!

It looks to be a great night for the left on the American continent. As a long-time supporter of the former Sandanista Governmeent in Nicaragua who got rid of one of the US Government's favourite dicatators Somoza, it's astonishing to see former President Daniel Ortega back in power tonight. The pictures on CNN of huge crowds in the centre of Managua celebrating the defeat of the right, who are backed by Bush and co., adds to Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia and the great survivor, Castro in Cuba. Hopefully we will see a Democratic House and Senate before the night is out to bring a bit of normality back to the world and signal the pending end of the Neo-Cons in the White House. Meanwhile I can't help remember meeting Ortega in the National Concert Hall, on a night when Michael D. Higgins gave a magnificent, if slightly innebriated speech welcoming 'El Presidente'. One of my proudest posessions is a Sandanista bandana signed by Ortega, and I unfortunately lost a t-shirt which proclaimed the best Sandanista slogan 'Los Pueblos Unida jamas sera vincido' (the people united will never be defeated). It looks like it's still true hopefully!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Breithlá Shona TG4- Nios mó polataiocht anois le'd thoil

Inniu deichiú breithlá TG4. Tá altanna an-shuimiúil ag Michael D. agus Colum Kenny ar an stáisiún san Examiner ar maidin, (nach bhfuil ar fáil ar-line áfach). In alt Kenny cáineann sé an easpa cláracha polataiochta ar an stáisiún le cúpla bliana. Gan dabht nil clár cosúil le Cúrsai a thug clúdaiocht chuimsitheach do chúrsai polataiocht agus cúrsai reatha. Seachas an Nuacht, ni féidir liom teacht ar aon chlár reatha ar an stáisiún anois. Is cuimhin liom féin páirt a ghlacadh i gclár iontach toghchánaiochta ónt tSionann roimh na toghcháin áitiúla i 1999, agus tréaslaim leo ar na pobalbreitheanna atá ar siúl sna dáilceanntracha Gaeltachta faoi láthair, ach b'fhearr liom go leathnófar an chlúdaiocht seo. Tá sé aisteach go bhfuil clár ar leith ag TV3, gan ceann ag stáisiún poibli. Cad é do mheas? Táim ag blogáil ar an ábhar chomh maith ar
anseo. Nochtaigh do thuairimi ansin chomh maith.
P.S. Mile comhgáirdeachas do TG4 ar a bhreithlá iontach! Is mó na daoine a dúirt gur craiceáilte a raibh Michael D. ag an am. Mar Chomhairleoir an Lucht Oibre táim an-bhródúil as ár bpáirti is iarr-aire gur eisean a dhein an bheart don dteanga!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sign up now to support Breast Cancer Screening

I didn't expect to be blogging quite so much today, but just got an email from Cllr. Séamus Ryan, former Chairperson (the last one I think), of the South Eastern Health Board. Séamus has started an online petition to highlight the poor availability of Breastcheck screening for women throughout the country. This is a National petition and can be accessed here or through Séamus's excellent blog. In the picture you see myself, Séamus, Cllr. Denis Landy of Tipp South and our party spokesperson on Health and Deputy Leader, Liz McManus TD, on a demonstration supporting the availability of Radiotherapy treatment in the South East.

The outrageously high level of deaths and unnecessary suffering from breast cancer in Ireland is unacceptable. It is a direct result of the failure of the Government to invest in screening programmes and adequate treatment facilities, particularly here in the South East. The painstaskingly slow rollout of Breastcheck is simply a refusal to spend the money. Do it now Minister to save the lives of Irish women.

Credit where it's due

I met John Purcell, General Manager of KCLR (Kilkenny Carlow Local Radio) just a little while ago and thanked him for the fact that after much badgering from me and many others, the station has recently gone live on the Internet. They very cleverly went live on the weekend of the All-Ireland Hurling final, meaning that Kilkenny natives around the world could tune into the local coverage, as well as that of the National broadcaster.

I must have really pleased John when I asked him to give serious thought to start podcasting on the station. I miss the 'On the Record' programme every day, the main morning news and magazine programme presented ny Sue Nunn, and produced by Cathy Power (both shown here at the ploughing recently with Michael O' Brien and Jim Townsend), and Thom Dowling's 'One 'o clock live' lunchtime programme, which are both vital to knowing what's occupying the minds of the voters.

The ability to listen to them in the afternoon would be great. Hopefully John and head of programming, the ever-dynamic Mags Murphy(pic gone as promised Mags!!) will look seriously at this facility.

I congratulated John too on the launch of Newstalk as a National station. John is a director of the station and involved since its beginnings as a Dublin-only station. I loved 'talk radio' when I had my student summer in Boston in 1985, and I can't believe it's taken so long to get here. I'm particularly enjoying George Hook in the afternoons.

Fair play to John, who is also one of the main movers behind Beat FM, the excellent young people's station in the South East, and one on which I regularly feature in news pieces. John's kids are pupils of Gaelscoil Osrai, and his daughter is a past pupil of my own. His commitment to the language is to be seen across all three stations, with Alan Mac an Eala, picking up yet another award in recent weeks for the excellent 'Tobar an Cheantair' programme on KCLR.

Friday, October 20, 2006

We Stand Up- Sheasamar leis na bochtaibh

Pic by Vicci Dempsey of Kilkenny Voice Newspaper.

Tuesday evening came and we stood up as promised to support the International Day of action against poverty and to support the Millenium anti-poverty goals. Dáil candidate Cllr. Michael O' Brien was there at my suggestion, and joined Mayor Martin Brett, Cllr. John Coonan of Fianna Fáil, and organisers Cllr. Malcolm Noonan and Rev. Elaine Murray of St. Canice's Cathedral. More importantly we were joined by a great bunch of young students from Kilkenny College, Kilkenny CBS, and the bould Fionn from Coláiste Pobal Osrai.

Also present was 'mo scáthán', my shadow Caoilfhionn who goes most places with me. She had her head stuck in a book I picked up by a great Antrim writer Malachy Doyle who did a reading for the Library Service for National Book week. If anybody wants a book for their ten year old, then pick up 'Amadáns' or 'Amadán's Alert'. I asked Caoilfhionn to tell the Mayor that it was about Fine Gaeler's, but she wasn't falling for that one. Martin did promise her a prize if she produces a review of the book when she finishes.

Anyway back to the action, we collected signatures at the City Hall, before proceeding to the statue of St. Canice, patron saint of all the people of Kilkenny. We gave Canice a cool white headband to mark the day, although we did remove it in case it was misunderstood as a stag party gimmick.

Back in Carrigan's for refrreshments we were treated to Fair Trade tea and coffee which the Langton group who own the pub supported since myself, Malcolm and others began the campaign to make us a Fair Trade city. It was great to see the vivacious and energetic Sophia Westwick, an adopted Scottish daughter of Kilkenny, and the first Chairperson of our Fair Trade campaign there and full of enthusiasm as ever.

Well done to Elaine also who thanked everybody for taking part on the day, and encouraged us all to keep up the good work to highlight the International campaign agianst third world poverty and debt.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Not singing the Blues!

I'm anything but a holy Joe, although I do have my own spirituality, and a practising, but not perfect Catholic. My main interest in life outside of politics and sport however, is music. I've long had an interest in black music or afro-American as we're supposed to call it now. When it comes to Gospel music, which is at the root of the Blues, jazz and rock and roll, there's nobody better out there than the Harlem Gospel Choir, celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. They've recorded with the best in world music, particularly their memorable appearance with U2 singing 'I Still Haven't Found what I'm looking for' on the Rattle and Hum tour.

I brought three kids, Fionn, Caoilfhionn and cousin Philip to the Watergate Theatre, our local pride and joy to hear an uplifting performance by the Harlemers. Their founder Allen Bailey keeps the group moving with a mixture of preaching and craic, and the singers have magic voices, ably accompanied by a great drummer and keyboard player. The songs are a mixture of the gospel classics like 'Wade in the Water' and 'Amazing Grace', along with some great soul and R&B classics from people like Stevie Wonder to whom this tour is dedicated.

Here's a picture of Caoilfhionn and I with Allen Bailey, and a pic of the group on stage. These are mobile phone pics so the quality may not be as good as the singing was on the night. Well done too to the local singers from Kilkenny Gospel Choir whop got great praise from Allen, and the other local choir, Tokoulo (hope I got the spelling right Kay!)who sang and danced the night away on and off stage.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Support the Anti-Poverty Demo on Tuesday

Saw in the local paper and got a letter today informing me of an anti-poverty demonstration at City Hall on Tuesday next at ten past five. I'll definitely be there and wearing the white ribbon, a nd the 'Make Poverty History' wristband I wear quite often. I've been a supporter of Oxfam's campaign for yonks, and I admire Bono and Geldof for their iongoing work. Many people as wealthy wouldn't bother their backsides. I've also been priveliged enough to see the inside of ordinary people's houses in Kilkenny, Kerry and inner-city Dublin in my time in politics, and I know that poverty in Ireland is by no means a thing of the past. Come along on Tuesday evening and join in for a few minutes. You can learn more about the international campaign here. Well done also to Revd. Elaine Murray of St. Canice's and my fellow councillor Malcolm Noonan on organising this initiative locally.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ceannaigh Trádál Chothrom ar line-Buy Fair Trade Online

Tá sé iontach email a fháil ó Oxfam Éire ag fógairt siopa ar-line d'earrai Thrádála Chothrom. Is féidir leat do chaifé, tae, siúcra agus seacláid a cheannach direach ón gcarrtanacht iontach seo anois agus cabhrú leis an obair a dhéanann siad ag aon am amháin. Tá áthas an domhain orm, chomh maith gur leáinseáil mo chomleacaithe, Cllr. Eric Byrne feachtas Thrádal Chothrom Bhaile Atha Cliath le déanai agus táim cinnte go mbeidh an árd-chathair go luath mar Chathair Thrádal Chothrom cosúil le Cill Chainnigh .

Oxfam's Fair Trade online shop is excellent and extremely user friendly. Having been centrally invovlved in the campaign for Fair Trade City status in Kilkenny which we secured last year, we were aware of the diffuiculties of accessing Fair Trade products. This new website allows the stuff to be delivered to your doorstep. Best of luck to Eric Byrne in his attempts to get Fair Trade City status for Dublin also, which you can read about in his fine blog.

Monday, October 02, 2006

On the muddy trail-Ag treabhadh linn

My first visit to the ploughing championships in Tullow last Thursday was some experience. This is without doubt one of the best organised and most impressive events in Irish life. Coming from a farming background, and having lived in rural Ireland for most of my life, I was aware that the Championships are now a fundamental part of rural life. Huge credit for this belongs to a certain Anna May McHugh, the Laois woman who is surely one of Ireland's most suiccessful and formidable women of the past thirty years.

For my own part, I proposed in 1995 that the Labour Party take a stand at the ploughing championships. Finally after 12 years we are there at last. The coverage that Pat Rabbitte received was phenomenal for the day that was in it. The fact that Taoiseach Ahern chose to give a waffly interview in Ballyjamesduff (Pat reckoned he was looking for another Paddy Reilly there!), and that Michael McDowell called on Ahern to answer serious questions about the Manchester after-dinner 8 grand speech, all made Pat and Enda Kenny the centre of attention. The media followed every word that Pat and Enda said in Tullow (or Grange to be exact), and for those of us lucky enough to be part of the entourage for the day, it made for excitement we didn't expect. It started for myself, Michael O' Brien and Jim Townsend, our local candidates with an interview with KCLR radio on Sue Nunn's morning programme. Later, as you;ll see here, Clara Walsh of the KCLR news team got the major intervies with Pat in which Pat cranked up the pressure on the PD's, leading to McDowell's later statement.

For us locally of course, it was vital to get local candidates Jim Townsend and Michael O' Brien to meet as many local voters as possible. The lads did this successfully, as well as getting thier faces on all the national news programmes by Pat's side, including on the Six One news, where Pat was interviewed live by the lovely Sharon Ni Bheoláin. All round, a great day with all that we wanted to achieve. Hopefully the first of many trips to the championships and one of many great days on the stomp before Michael or Jim become the TD for Carlow/Kilkenny. Well done also to party staff Liam Cahill, George Cummins and Shauneen Armstrong who did a great job in keeping the show on the road, and more importantly to local members John McGillicuddy, Brian Harris, Michael Joyce, Des Hurley and our neighbour Aoife Breslin, the mayor of Athy, and an old friend who knows me far too well for my liking!, who worked so hard on the party stand on the day.
World Ploughing Championships,  Tullow, County Carlow

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

On the Trail

Out on the leaflet drop tonight with a good team including Michael O' Brien, our candidate in Kilkenny for the General election, his son Shane, neighbour Mary and the irrepressible Gary Lynch, one of my 'Main Men' from the canvass team. One encounter with a very irate parent of a heroin addict, complaining about the lack of a drug treatment centre and a methadone clinic in the city. Interestingly, this was the topic of Prime Time on RTÉ tonight along with Bertie's tearful performance on RTÉ. Here's a pic of Gary with Pat. Gary says one of them is the conscience of the Irish Labour Party. Modest as ever Gar!

By the way, you can watch the full interview with Bertie Ahern here and make up your own mind. I personally think he has major questions to answer. After all Ivor Callelly had to walk because he failed to pay a [painter for work done in his house. We can all feel sympathy for Bertie's break-up, but why is it that he had managed to get a loan to pay these costs, but still needed another one from his friends to repay this loan. One thing is sure. I'm buying a pair of waterproof shoes. I think we'll be knocking on doors pretty soon!

Well done to Rossport people on their bravery

Comhgáirdeachas do mhuintir Ros Dúch ar an seasamh a thugadar ar maidin. Well done to the people of Rossport who bravely stopped Shell and its agents beginning work on the unnecessary onshore Bealnaboy gas 'refinery' this morning. Interestingly I met a Rossport bus driver at the weekend in Kildare, another Corduff whose first name escapes me. He reiterated the support of the people of the area for the campaign and predicted the outcome this morning. I was delighted to be present when Pat Rabitte presented Vincent McGrath with the Labour Party's Jim Kemmy Justice award in Kilkenny at the Tom Johnson award (Blog coming soon folks I promise). Meanwhile best of luck to the Rossport people on their struggle. Here's a pic of Vincent and myself after the award presentation.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Arts Week Catch-Up

With many apologies to those whose pics I took and those I met during Arts Festival in Kilkenny, here are some of the pics I took with visitors and locals alike as Deputy Mayor.First off here's one of the incredible Ms. Bunty Pike from Dublin, who was with relatives from Phoenix Arizona, I believe. Bunty, who is a sprightly 91 year old is Mum of Andy, the Camphill based designer of the River Parade, which included many of Camphill's residents. To find out more about Camphill's wonderful work, visit their website here.

Just down the street was my neighbour from Waterville, Co. Kerry, Adrian O' Shea, who was visiting for the festival, along with his two blonde sons, like father ..... Adrian and myself grew up across a field from each other after he returned with England with his Dad Naoise, one of our local doctors, and his Mum Anne who became a leading light in our local Tidy Towns committee. I was delighted to suggest the dedication of a new community playground in the village to Anne's memory, and five years after we started the project, it was finally opened at Easter this year. Adrian's wife Liz has stropng Kilkenny connections with the Burke and Hindle families, including with my predecessor as Deputy Mayor and a great Mayor recently, Betty Manning.

On the same day, I met the superb local artist Alan Counihan who lives in Johnswell, and had an amazing exhibition in Rudolf Hetzel's gallery on Patrick Street. Alan makes the most amazing sculpture pieces using feathers and such ordinary things as bird skeletons. As a beachside dweller for most of my life, I could never have imagined these avian remains turning into Viking longships and other wonderful things. An example of Alan's work is shown here, although he also had some interesting sculpture pieces focussing on the loss of the Irish language. alan_counihan

I also met with Alan's former Irish teacher, Michael O' Sullivan, who was one of the special guests at the opening along with his family. I've now finally found the names folks, and here you see Michael, Dervla and Eileen O' Sullivan with Alan in the August sunshine.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Who let the Cats Out- Yahoo!!!

What a day- what a win, and so far what a year. Mar, the kids and I have had the luck this year of being in Cardiff to see glorious Munster grab the Heineken cup in one of Ireland's greatest sporting moments. Yesterday was another as the cats demolished the rebels all over the pitch. What a great day to be an adopted Kilkenny citizen. Roll on tonight when we get to celebrate with the team in the Market Yard. Major congrats to my felllow club members Jackie Tyrell as outstanding captain, to Eoin Larkin, and to Brian Cody, the magic manager. Also to Eoin McCormack and Donncha Cody who didn't make it yesterday but did so much to bring Liam back Noreside. Looking forward to a great night in Larchfield. Please get along also to the Goal challenge between the Cats and the Village on Wednesday night at 6.30 pm in Nowlan Park in aid of my favourite charity, Goal, led by that raucous Kerryman John 'O Shea.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I measc na ndaoine-Meet the people

Saturday last was definitely the maddest day of the week as acting mayor. It was also the most eclectic. I was all ready to collect for Amnesty International at lunch time when Dessie McGrath from the James Stephens GAA club arived to aask me to be in the Village club in 10 minutes.Paul Kavanagh, one of the best supporters of hurling in the county was presenting a sponsorship cheques to the club, and they wanted the Mayor there. I was delighted to do the job, and even got the Kilkenny Rose, Ann Phelan to wear the chain, as you can see here. Here's to a good championship for the Red and Green when it restarts in September.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

All that Jazz, Blues, etc. I lár na Féile

It's been a mad few days since the start of the Arts Festival. It all kicked off on Friday (officially that is anyway) in the crescent of the Design Centre where Dara O' Brien of Newstalk opened the proceedings officially. Loads of VIP's including Olive Braiden, the Chair of the Arts Council, and of course all the people who have been lifetime friends of the festival. It was a really liveley evening, with sunshine, vino and plenty good company. The good news announcement was that Mike Fitzpatrick, who heads up the visual arts end of the festival, has been selected to curate Ireland's part of the Venice Biennale, the biggest arts festival in Europe. Mike is a great fun character, full of Clare wit, but really knows his stuff too.

From there it was on to the opening of the Kilkenny Photographic Society exhibition in the Club House hotel. The society has a great website with loads of the work of its 30 plus members. Holding court on the night was old friend, Greenshill neighbour and doc Johnny Cuddihy, who was acting Chairperson for the night. One of the most interesting people I met was a young Polish man working in Callan called Petr, who has mastered the local art of answering questions with cryptic riddles fairly quickly. Get along to the Club House if you can, and here's one of Petr's pics. Nothing to do with faulty fish passes either.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Openings and all that Jazz-The madness begins!

The craic kicked off yesterday in earnest with a round of openings of art exhibitions around the city at the start of Kilkenny Arts Festival. First off I visited Daithi Ó hÚallcháin's fantastic collection of line drawings and colour landscapes which are firmly set in the city. Davy's exhibition was opened eloquently as usual by my colleague Malcolm Noonan.

Then it was on to Gallery One on William Street where Thomastown artist Debra Bowden has some striking oils and mixed media pieces. Many of them reminded me of the interiors of derelict houses in rural Kilkeny and in my native county, and one fabulous piece represented the fulacht fiadh, the ancient cooking pits of the celts which are becoming hard to find now.

Then it was on to Kieran Street where I officially opened joint exhibition which Brock Butler and Roger O' Reilly are holding ain the Kilkenny Gallery, (formerly the Leather and Hide shop), and the new Blackbird Gallery across the road. I described the exhibition as an eclectic ballroom of art. For my speech at the opening click here.

All the above involved a few glasses of wine and led on to Tynan's and further. Today sees more of the same. Roll on the good times. Now I'm really finding out the joys of being Deputy Mayor!

All a Racquet- Parks Tennis Fun

I was delighted yesterday to take part in presenting the prizes for the Parks Tennis Summer camps up at Kilkenny Lawn Tennis club. In my time involved in community and political work, this initiative is one of the best I've seen. For just €15, chidren get a fotnight's coaching at venues all over the county. It's an attempt to bring what some might have seen as a slightly eleitist sport to everybody and to give chidren the basic skills. Well done to Catherine Dore who roped me into the Parks Tennis committee when I moved to Kilkenny, and to all the other voluntary workers on the committee. Yesterday saw almost 100 players take part in the county finals, and they will now go on to represent the county in the South East finals. Go n-eiri ádh leo.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

An Riocht Abú- Bring on the Rebels

Cad é mar chluiche- cad é mar bhúa!! Just back off the train in time to see the ball thrown in against Armagh. What a Kerry performance. So much for not being able to come from behind, play with 14 men, not being able to beat an ULSTER TEAM. We've finally got the monkey off our back and we're back on track. Best of all was the smile on Jack O' Connor, my fellow parishioner's face at the end. After all the nonsense in Kerry for the past few weeks, Jack summed it up perfectly. 'What harm if fellas hit each other a few slaps in training?' says he. 'I was praising them for that.' Well done too to Brian Sheehan and Declan O' Sullivan from South Kerry who both redeemed themselves when they came off the bench.

Comhgáirdeachas do mhuintir Ui Shé, Dara, Marc agus Tomás a d'imir go diabhail. As for Billy's boys- Bring 'Em On!!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Pat the first Leader to Podcast

Labour Party Leader Pat Rabitte T.D. has become the first Party Leader to take part in a digital Podcast interview with The cast covers a range of issues from privatisation of the health services to digital access, and even to Mayo and the Dubs' chances in the football championship. Listen to the podcast here, and let us know what you think here. Once again, Labour is to the fore with digital progress.

Two Anniversaries-Cook and Casement

Yesterday was a strange co-incidence of two anniversaries of humanitarians, whose lives have some funny overlaps. My Dad travelled to Banna Strand, in his own native parish in North Kerry to take part in the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the execution of Sir Roger Casement. An intersting character, who devoted his life to the emancipation of oppressed peoples in British colonies, he ended his life in the cause of Irish freedom in a somewhat chaotic attempt to recruit Irish POW's in Germany to assist in the 1916 Rising. Finally he managed to presuade the Germans to send an arms shipment to Tralee on board the ill-fated Aud, only to fail to make contact with the local volunteers. Having landed himself, he was duly arrested, with major questions remaining about the failure of the local volunteers to free him. He then became the epitome of the British traitor, being executed for treason, but not before his reputation was destroyed by the famous 'Black Diaries', which insinuated that he was gay, then a fate almost as bad as death. He remains however a much admired figure in Ireland.

Sir Robin Cook, another man with a huge commitment to International justice died a year ago yesterday, with many of his compatriots also considering him a traitor as a result of his principled resignation as Foreign Secretary because of his opposition to British participation in the Iraq war. Like Casement, he was also dogged by sexual scandal, albeit of a heterosexual nature. He was also, as the 2004 Labour Party Conference showed hugely admired for his principled stand by Irish socialists. Click here to see the Labour Party's (and my own) web tribute to Robin. I was fortunate to have met Cook, and can only reflect today on how different our lives might be if both Cook and Casement had succeeded in winning the debates of their day. Ar Dheis Dé go raibh an beirt laoch seo.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Politicians Squeeze Through again

The lads made it through again last night although I'm not sure about the wisdom of chosing 'Set on You' which George Harrison didn't write but covered from 50's star Rudy Clark. Luckily our lad McCarthy can sing because some of the others struggled last night. Great to see them still there however.

I spoke to Mike after the show and they're having great fun and delighted to be making money for the hospice cause. Keep up the votes for them tonight on the show, and hopefully they'll be there at the end to go one better than that so-called leftie (only joking Finian!!) from the Northside. Remember to text Vote Politicians to 53600 or by phoning 1513 7127108.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Solution in sight on the Lacken Weir??

It was back to Council business yesterday, after a sociable weekend in Kilkenny. Huge congrats to Shane O' Brien and Ellen Nolan who were married on Friday and thanks for a great night's craic in Lyrath. We'll turn up even if Bertie won't Xavier. On Saturday it was off to Croker for Billy Joel. For anybody under 35, please refer to Google!! We were with friends John and Myra, and a good night was had by all.

Yesterday saw a joint briefing for Borough and County Councillors by O.P.W. officials on their plans to replace the disastrous Lacken Weir which hit the headlines so much last Spring. What happened then was outrageous, although, as many speakers pointed out yesterday, the overall effect of the River works has been hugely beneficial for the city centre. The officials estimated yesterday that the damage which would have been done by the last major flooding would have been close enough to the cost of the work so far.

They are now proposing to replace the Denil Pass which was so unsuccessful last year with a rock ramp which will allow the salmon a more gradual passage on their way to their spawning grounds further up tyhe Nore. They have visited a number of similar sites, including in Germany, and seem confident that this solution will work. I warmly welcome their proposals and hope to God they do work. This stuff is an indefinite science, and I genuinely think that the O.P.W. are doing their best. Their characterisation in the local media sometimes as bumbling incompetents is wide of the mark. Local anglers I have talked to seem to be relatively happy also.

It amused me to hear one Fianna Fáil Councillor say that it was their priority to get the fish up the river to spawn. He should have told that to Pat the Cope Gallagher when he was Minister and doing his best to continue allowing the drift-net fishermen to kill every salmon they could before they ever got into the Nore. Equally amusing was the Fine Gael Councillor who was very anxious to know that it would be O.P.W. staff who would actually carry out the work. I reminded him that Labour always believed that public servants do it better. Fine Gael's conversion will be welcomed by all of us on the left!

The proposal also looks like it will be hugely visually attractive, and this canoeist is looking forward to trying to paddle down a fine challenging weir.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Vote for Michael and the other Politicians

The rogue in the middle is Senator Michael McCarthy, Labour's bright hope in Cork South West. This week however, he's starring as part of 'The Politicians' in You're a Star Charity special on RTÉ One TV channel, along with Billy Kelliher, Fianna Fáil T.D., Dan Boyle T.D. of the Greens, and Sen. Frank Feighan of Fine Gael. Tonight the lads sang the Monkees 'Daydream Believer'. The voting has just finished. The lads did really well and have got through again, topping the poll tonight. If you want the lads to win, keep supporting them by phoning 1513 7127108 or text politicians to 53600. You'll also be supporting one of my favourite charities the Irish Hospice Foundation.

Support Vigil against Israeli Bombings

I wasn't able to make the demonstrations in Dublin yesterday against the Israeli actions in Lebanon. I'm delighted that our party was so well represented, and I fully support Trócaire, and the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign in their efforts to bring the Israeli Government to their senses.

Trocaire has called for a demonstration in front of the US Embassy at 6.00pm, with Michael D. Higgins as one of the main speakers. If you're in Dublin, please get along.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Shell chun Sáile-Shell to Sea Campaign Hits Town

Wednesday night saw the Shell to Sea campaign hit Kilkenny as they try to renew awareness about the Mayo campaign. One of the five men jailed last year for attempting to prevent an overland high-pressure gas pipe being run through their small Gaeltacht community was guest speaker. Myself, Cllr. Malcolm Noonan of the Green Party and Sinn Féin's Kathleen Funchion also spoke alonside teacher Micheál Ó Seidhin.

It was a privilege to speak alongside Micheál, whom I described genuinely as one of the bravest people I have met. He is also witty and exceptionally knowledgeable, and he got away with something I never would-speaking for an hour and twenty minutes!!

The continuing scandal of the situation in Rossport was outlined by him. I was able to set the context thanks to an excellent briefing from Tommy Broughan T.D., our spokesperson on Energy, who Micheál praised for his, and our, consistent support and work on the campaign. I hope that Tommy gets his head when we return to Government and that we sort out this mess for once and for all. I also hope that we reverse the Fianna Fáil/PD sell-out to the multinationals and follow the Norwegian example of controlling our natural resources for the benefit of our own people.

If you want to learn more about the campaign visit the Shell to Sea website, or view the superb report by the Centre for Public Enquiry here. The quality of that report shows why the centre was hatcheted by Michael McDowell. While I have my reservations about Frank Connolly, we need an independent body like this to help us all keep a close eye on the golden triangle which will be camped in the tent at the Galway races next week.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

No Paseran-Let us remember 70 years on.

Thanks to Comrade Séamus Ryan, Cllr. in Waterford whose excellent blog reminds me that today marks the 70th. anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Recently, the legendary Mick O' Riordan who was honoured by the Labour Party a number of years ago died. I was privileged to know Mick in Dublin in my Labour Youth days, and he'll be missed. Local member and very important one at that, Gary Lynch travelled for Mick's funeral in Dublin. Unfortunately, work meant I could not make it.

Let's remember today the members of La Quince Brigada, or the Fifteenth International Brigade, a group of Socialist and
Republican volunteers who travelled from Ireland and many of whom lost their lives defending the Republican Government. They were to be unsuccessful eventually in the face of Franco, who plunged Spain into 40 years of dictatorship. Now that we are in the era of balance however, it must be recognised that many who travelled on the Blueshirt side under the command of Eoin O' Duffy, were also idealistic young men who believed they were saving the world from Communist dictatorship (the suppport of Stalin for the struggle in Spain gave meat to this argument).

Meanwhile, I came across a number of Kilkenny names of the International Brigade on an excellent website this morning. If anybody who knows anything about these men, I'd be delighted to receive any information about them:George Browne, Manchester-Kilkenny, Seán Dowling, Castlecomer or Denis Holden, Carlow

Meanwhile, here's the words of my party piece, the best Irish song about the International Brigade, although it's short on the Déise names, I'm told

Viva La Quince Brigada by Christy Moore

Ten years before I saw the light of morning
A comradeship of heroes was laid.
From every corner of the world came sailing
The Fifteenth International Brigade.
They came to stand beside the Spanish people.
To try and stem the rising Fascist tide
Franco's allies were the powerful and wealthy,
Frank Ryan's men came from the other side.

Even the olives were bleeding
As the battle for Madrid it thundered on.
Truth and love against the force af evil,
Brotherhood against the Fascist clan.
Vive La Quinta Brigada!
"No Paseran" the pledge that made them fight.
"Adelante" was the cry around the hillside.
Let us all remember them tonight.

Bob Hillard was a Church of Ireland pastor;F
rom Killarney across the Pyrenees he came.
From Derry came a brave young Christian Brother.
Side by side they fought and died in Spain.
Tommy Woods, aged seventeen, died in Cordoba.
With Na Fianna he learned to hold his gun.
From Dublin to the Villa del Rio
Where he fought and died beneath the Spanish sun.


Many Irishmen heard the call of Franco.
Joined Hitler and Mussolini too.
Propaganda from the pulpit and newspapers
Helped O'Duffy to enlist his crew.
The word came from Maynooth: 'Support the Fascists.'
The men of cloth failed yet again
When the bishops blessed the blueshirts in Dun Laoghaire
As they sailed beneath the swastika to Spain.


This song is a tribute to Frank Ryan.
Kit Conway and Dinny Coady too.
Peter Daly, Charlie Regan and Hugh Bonar.
Though many died I can but name a few.
Danny Doyle, Blaser-Brown and Charlie Donnelly.
Liam Tumilson and Jim Straney from the Falls.J
ack Nally, Tommy Patton and Frank Conroy,
Jim Foley, Tony Fox and Dick O'Neill.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Getting Rid of the Graffiti

Just back from helping the local committee who try to keep the city in ship-shape, better known as 'Keep Kilkenny Beautiful' to try and get rid of the graffiti which some of our geniuses in town have decorated our public buildings with.

Next Wednesday, the 26th of July, Kilkenny will be visited by the judges of the Entente Florale competition. This is one of Europe's most important environmental competitions and allows us to claim a major title which would attract additional tourists to our city. The Council have done fantastic work improving the public spaces in the city, and local businesses and voluntary groups have played their part in filling window ledeges, hanging baskets and even floating water beds on the river with flowers.

Unfortunately much of the route which will be walked by the judges has been targetted by graffiti artists in recent months. Today we painted over much of this so-called art. Hopefully it won't be targetted tonight by the vandals. Well done to the local committee for all their efforts.

On a related topic I have proposed a motion which would see a public graffiti wall in the city, which would allow a dedicated space for this work. It also calls for a crackdown on illegal graffiti though. It will hopefully be debated at September's Council meeting.

For more on the Entente Florale visit the Council's excellent website with its cool interactive route map here