Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sense at last on Valentia Station

It's rarely I blog about South Kerry, 'm'áit dúchais' but tonight is genuinely an occasion for celebration for an embattled community. As a local election candidate in the area almost ten years ago I was one of those campaigning against the closure of Valentia coastguard station and the downgrading of Valentia weather station, which is of course based in Cahersiveen and was where my Dad worked for many years.

While we didn't succeed in retaining all the services in Cahersiveen, the coastguard station survived until Minister Noel Dempsey, yes him the Minister who tried to take away Kilkenny's city status and to reintroduce college fees, tried to close the scenic but extremely effective station. Here's what he said in 2007.

"I have confirmed that locating one on the east coast and one on the west coast is the preferred option and that the east coast centre should be co-located with the HQ."

The station has provided a superb service to seafarers for generations and provides invaluable employment to a small fishing community which has been ravaged by emigration and the decline of fishing.

Radio communication has a historic place in the life of Valentia, putting it at the heart of the telecommunications history of the world. It was from just down the road in Knightstown that the first trans-atlantic cable was laid in 1866, sending the first electronic message from Europe to America.
Now the doughty fighters of 'The Island' and their allies all over the Iveragh penninsula have succeeded in defeating yet another Minister. The fact that they had to campaign nationally for ten years will give the lie to claims from both John O' Donoghue and the Healy Rae clan that they were responsible for victory. Instead the people of Oileán Dairbhre should take a bow at having stood up for themselves. Well done also to Tommy Broughan TD who as our communications spokesperson has consistently stood up for the people pf the area. Like us in Kilkenny and Carlow, the people of South Kerry badly need the return of a Labour voice to represent them in Dáil Éireann.
To appreciate the history of seafaring in the area, one only needs to recall the words of that great local poet Tomás Rua Ó Súilleabháin in his famous poem and song over 150 years ago:
'Amhrán na Leabhar'
Go Cuan Bhéil Inse casadh mé,
Cois Góilín aoibhinn Dairbhre,
Mar a seoltar flít na farraige,
Thar sáile i gcéin.
I Portmagee do stadas seal,
Faoi thuairim intinn maitheasa,
D'fhonn bheith sealad eatarthu,
Mar mháistir léinn.
Is gearr gur chuala an eachtara,
Ag cách mo léan!
Gur i mBord Eoghain Fhinn do chailleathas,
An t-árthach tréan.
Do phreab mo chroí le hatuirse,
I dtaobh loinge an taoisigh chalma,
Go mb'fhearrde an tír í 'sheasamh seal,
Do ráib an tséin.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Is Féidir Linn

Sin na focail a d'úsáid ceannaire mo pháirtí, Eamon Gilmore ag deireadh a aitheasc i gCill Chainnigh an Satharn seo chaite. Las sé tine faoi bhaill an pháirtí agus más aon comhartha an méid atáim ag clos ó cháirde agus an pobal, faoin dtír ar fad chomh maith.

We've just finished the historic first ever national conference of the Labour Party in Kilkenny and whar a weekend it was. For me, the most memorable conference speech was that of our last hugely successful leader Dick Spring at the famour 'Bread and Roses' caonference in Tralee in 1989. That was pure theatre with its opera and poetry and its sheer novelty. Saturday's sppech was all about content however, right from the start. The first sentence was 'I want to talk to you about solutions', and that was what he did. You can watch the speech below or read it here.

For my own part, I got to speak in the live RTÉ television debate on Saturday morning and you can see the speech here from the party's very forward looking presence on UStream. I also made the main RTÉ news for my comments regarding Fine Gael's attacks on the public service, and was also delighted to make it onto Saturday View, my favourite RTÉ radio programme, and had the privilege of being interviewed by John Bowman. The soundbite was small for all of us but we were there regardless. The coverage continued today as my comments were covered in two pieces in the Irish Times, one on FG and one on class sizes. and the Irish Daily Mail. More importantly of course on a local level I got to do a good piece with Tom Dowling on the afternoon news show on KCLR FM, our local radio station.

Two highlights of the weekend were the long service awards to Carlow/Kilkenny party members. Two of my favourite Labour women got recognition they deserved. Sadie Kelly was my predecessor on the party's National Executive and played a major part in bringing this conference to Kilkenny, work which I was delighted to continue, while the ever youthful Peggy Kerwick was unfortunately absent but her award was collected by my neighbour and great community activist, Seán. The others were Graiguenamanagh man John Bolger, Borris man Willie Hayes, and the unbelieveably fresh looking Paddy Dowd of Coon in North Kilkenny a 93 year old lifelong activist. All got their awards from one of my heroes, party President Michael D. Higgins TD.

He had previously presented the Jim Larkin justice award to Conor MacLiam, husband of the late Susie Long who inspired us so much in her life and her passing. Conor reminded us that Susie was a great socialist and a huge admirer of Larkin, and of course challenged us to keep alive the issues which tragically led to her death.