00:00 Saturday 10 September 2011  Written by Leo McMahon

Keeping an eye on Kilbrittain

The input of young and young at heart has ensured that the people of Kilbrittain are well cared for by the local Community Alert group working in close co-operation of local Garda John McCarthy and others.

Established around 25 years ago, the voluntary group serves a population of around 4,500 over an extensive and scenic area stretching from the turn off the R600 road to Garrettstown in the east to just outside Timoleague to the west, north to Carey's Cross on the Bandon road and south to the beaches of Harbour View, Coolmain, Howe and Flaxfort plus of course the village of Kilbrittain.

On a recent visit to the community hall I met chairman Michael Twohig, chairman and PRO; secretary Hugh Barry and Gda John McCarthy and also Eileen Hayes and Leonie Ward of Kilbrittain Young at Heart Group; Phil Deasy, principal of Gurraneasig National School, and Liz Barron. Present also was busy Muintir na Tire Community Alert co-ordinator in the south west region, Diarmuid Cronin from Rylane. Vice-chairman Jim Moore and treasurer Denis Collins are also important members.

Kilbrittain village with its whale, and in particular its nearby beaches and Sli na Slainte walk, is a mecca for visitors and that includes thieves who never miss an opportunity to make their own day out a profitable one.

New signs

In that regard, the pro-active group, on the evening I called, had just received seven prominent new blue-coloured signs entitled 'Remove All Valuables' with a symbol, some of which have already been erected at Coolmain, Harbour View and the car park of St Patrick's Church, Kilbrittain. Theft from vehicles is an increasing problem in the West Cork area and the message contained in the signs is aimed at ensuring the scenic locality continues to be an attractive place to visit.

Representatives of the group along with its counterparts in South West Cork and Diarmuid, meet with the Superintendent and other offices at the Garda Divisional Headquarters in Bandon four times a year to review reports on crime statistics and discuss matters of concern at local and regional level such as how to deal with rogue traders.

Diarmuid said that one of the most satisfying aspects of the success of the Community Alert group in Kilbrittain was the contribution made by young people. Having been encouraged by the local organisation to learn about its work, pupils of Gurraneasig National School in 2008, embarked on a Christmas card project which won a national award through Karla Nicholson. Furthermore, the activity of the children helped raise awareness as well as get parents involved and go along to Community Alert meetings. Group member Phil Deasy is principal of the school which this year celebrates its golden jubilee.

The Community Alert group played a very important role during the week-long search for missing murder victim Ann Corcoran in harsh winter conditions in early 2009. In addition to actively assisting Gardai on search parties, in which local knowledge proved invaluable, there was tremendous support through catering at every hour at the community hall which was a hive of activity and a shining example of all that is good about rural Ireland.

A permanent and positive offshoot of that turbulent time for the rural community was the presentation of the large scale map of the locality containing very useful at-a-glance information which is now on a wall in the local Garda station.

A major aim of Community Alert in the locality is the support of older people, especially those in isolated locations. Michael said the group is continuing to secure 24-hour socially monitored alarms for every pensioner and vulnerable resident in its area. Under a grant scheme in conjunction with Muintir na Tire, around 20 have been fitted in households and a further 40 are planned.

The group intends to replace the 'dial-a-neighbour' alarms which are supposed to be worn in the household. It has also encouraged the development of a first responder defibrillator group in the area.

The group liaises with Cork County Council's fire service to secure smoke alarms for the most vulnerable of householders and these are installed by its members. Such a preventative measure clearly works because thankfully, no fatality has occurred in the area resulting from fire. Community Alert has also encourage the Warmer Homes Scheme in the locality.

As pointed out by Eileen and Leonie, there's an excellent working relationship between Community Alert and Kilbrittain Young at Heart Group. The latter, which meets in the community hall every Thursday afternoon (starting from September 15th), provides refreshments and organises a wide range of activities for senior citizens, has, along with Marian Moloney and other members of the local Welfare Group, identified for Community Alert, people living alone who could possibly benefit from alarms, home visits or phone calls while at the same time fully respecting the dignity and independence of each person. The Young at Heart Group also holds information talks on security advice and other subjects, such as how to deal with rogue traders calling to their homes, and always welcomes new members.

It has also been to the fore in the development of the much appreciated service under the West Cork Rural Transport Scheme which enables elderly persons with no vehicle to be transported from their homes to Young at Heart Group gatherings and back again.

Michael said Community Alert was very grateful to Diarmuid Cronin, Muintir na Tire, the Gardai, county council, the Young at Heart and Welfare Groups and local businesses. Thanks were also expressed to the people of the area for the support of its annual church gate collection and he urged more to get involved and join the organisation. If enough were interested, public information talks on home security, fire safety, crime prevention and other topics could be arranged adding that efforts will be made in the coming months to get one or two representatives from each local organisation to attend its meetings.

Major concerns, said members of the group, were the need to retain a Garda patrol car for a one person station serving an extensive rural area in three District Court areas - Bandon, Clonakilty and Kinsale - and for measures to be taken by the county council to curb speeding through the village. All present paid tribute to Garda John McCarthy for his outstanding service beyond the call of duty to everyone in the rural community, especially the elderly, over the past nine and a half years.

As one of those civic-minded citizens I met in the hall recently put it, 'Community Alert is basically about people caring for neighbours and making their place a safer and nicer one in which to live.' In that regard, people can rest easy in their homes, safe in the knowledge that Kilbrittain Community Alert is one of the most pro-active.

To get involved or obtain more information about what Community Alert has to offer, tel 086-8073409.

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