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A year of moo-vers and shakers – and much more – in West Cork

January 8th, 2016 11:55 AM

By Southern Star Team

At the launch, in Google's Dublin offices, of National Digital Week, which took place in Skibbereen were, from left, Tom Hayes, divisional manager, Enterprise Ireland; Sean O'Driscoll, CEO, Glen Dimplex; Anne O Leary, CEO, Vodafone Ireland; Ronan Harris, vice-president, Google EMEA; Louise Phelan;,v

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JANUARY

2015 began with the gardai saying it had been ‘one of the quietest Christmases’ in years in West Cork. Meanwhile, Cllr Michael Collins was seeking a meeting with Communications Minister Alex White to impress upon him the need for better broadband in West Cork.

At the same time, Jim Daly TD announced that a meeting would be held in Clonakilty to identify routes throughout West Cork that can be developed for outdoor pursuits such as cycling, walking and running. 2014 was described by Health and Safety Authority CEO Martin O’Halloran as a particularly horrific year for the agriculture sector. ‘The number of fatal accidents that occurred on farms last year was the highest in over 20 years. In May of 2014 alone there were five people killed. It is particularly tragic that five children lost their lives on Irish farms last year’.

Property prices in West Cork had risen by 5% in 2014, we were told, and were predicted to rise by up to 12pc in 2015. The average price of both new and second-hand homes came in at between €180,000 and €300,000 in 2014, depending on the house type, according to local auctioneers Sherry FitzGerald O’Neill. We also heard that the sale of the former convent site in Skibbereen for €500,000 could be the start of a major development for the town.

 

 

FEBRUARY

 

CLLR Michael Collins (Ind) walked out of a West Cork Municipal District meeting in solidarity with the people of West Cork who, he said, were being offered a reduced recycling and refuse disposal service. Accusing Council officials of making dictatorial decisions, Mr Collins rose to his feet and demanded that the director of environment be invited to a meeting to explain why the people of West Cork are ‘being kicked in the butt’.

Clonakilty got Ireland’s first rural bike rental scheme. 

 Under the plan by local hoteliers, mini bicycle-docking stations – each holding  about 10 bikes – were announced for hotels in Clonakilty and surrounding areas such as Inchydoney, Dunmore, Rosscarbery and Courtmacsherry. 

Viewers of BBC 1’s flagship chatshow The Graham Norton Show got a few tips on Irish dancing from a West Cork GAA star when Adrigole’s Liam Harrington was spotted by eagle-eyed fans of the show as the host went into the audience to pick some ‘victims’ to show off their dancing skills to guest, Irish dancing supremo Michael Flatley.

Contamination of the fuel tanks on the Astrid was among the reasons cited for the disaster near Oysterhaven on July 24 2013, a report said. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board concluded that the ship, in its condition on the day, ‘should not have been at sea’. It said that the engines failed as a result of the fuel contamination, leading to the eventual sinking of the sail training vessel, after a major rescue of its 30 passengers off the Cork coast.

The news that Cork Airport had lost over 1m passengers in just seven years prompted a lot of angry reaction in February. It was reported that Ireland’s second airport had experienced a 36pc decline in passengers since 2008, from a high of 3.25m, down to 2.1m in 2014. Meanwhile, Inchydoney beach was voted the top beach in Ireland by Tripadvisor reviewers.

It was also reported that a tender process for Bandon’s long-awaited flood scheme would ‘begin shortly’, with the news that the legal challenge had been settled.

 

 

MARCH

 

LISHEENS House, the West Cork Suicide Prevention Service, opened a free counselling centre, six days a week, in Skibbereen. The organisation said it was another step closer to the dream of realising a free service for everyone in West Cork. 

Figures showed that property crime in West Cork decreased by 6% in 2014, according to provisional figures and Friday was the most likely day for break-ins.

It was a tale of two towns in February, as Leap residents protested at the installation of water meters, while nearby Clonakilty appeared to welcome the workers. Although in Leap, the battle lines were drawn by chairs and chat, rather than any harsh words when the installers arrived. 

The Marine Hotel in Glandore was sold to a consortium from the Cork city area. The hotel, which commands stunning views over Glandore Harbour and beyond, is located on the coast between Skibbereen and Clonakilty.

Lady luck was shining on Skibbereen as once again the West Cork town laid claim to another Euro Millions win. A lucky punter won the top prize of €500,000 in the Euro Millions Plus draw after buying their ticket at Hennessy’s Londis shop.

 

APRIL

 

AS West Cork dairy farmers celebrated the ending of milk quotas, two of the area’s four co-ops were in turmoil on the same issue. Lisavaird Co-op and Barryroe Co-op came under the spotlight regarding quota transfer deals, and within days of the news breaking, Donal Tobin had resigned as chairman of both Lisavaird and the Carbery Group.

Ian Bailey lost his High Court action against the State after the 11-person jury deliberated for less than two hours. Bailey was claiming wrongful arrest and conspiracy in a case that lasted 64 days.

Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe warned that littering along the Wild Atlantic Way had the potential to seriously damage the tourism product. Speaking exclusively to The Southern Star, the Minister said the route had to be kept ‘authentic’ and ‘clean’ and that instances of fly-tipping along the route caused a real threat to its popularity.

A road-widening project on the far side of Bonane, between Glengarriff and Kenmare, in the Caha mountain range, was set to continue despite the discovery of an underground passage that was believed to be over 1,000 years old. The discovery of the souterrain, which is an ancient underground gallery, was a significant find, experts said.

Bantry harbour was set for a major €8.5m redevelopment including a new 20-berth marina, a deeper inner harbour, and a longer and wider pier, all to be completed by 2017.

Fire fighting crews were up against it in April, with almost every service pressed into action on one particular night. Fire fighting teams from Schull and Bantry had to deal with the worst of it as they battled an illegally-set gorse fire three miles north of Glengarriff, a fire that one homeowner described as ‘terrifying.’

 

MAY

 

HISTORIAN and Lusitania expert Paddy O’Sullivan from Bandon called on the Department of Heritage to stop obstructing dives to the Lusitania site. Experienced diver Paddy, who has written extensively on the subject, said ‘answers in regard to what sank the Lusitania are tantalisingly near, once heritage interference stops’.

You’re never too old to go viral as 101-year-old Kitty Cotter from Monarone in Bandon showed when a video of her explaining why she will vote ‘yes’ in the Marriage Equality Referendum, shot by her grand-daughter, Ca, exploded across social media platforms.

A Cloughduv priest, who sent three men to threaten his nephew at his workplace in Innishannon, was jailed for four years. Fr Francis Kelleher (59) pleaded guilty to four counts of coercion in relation to the threats made against his nephew, Niall Kelleher (43) on a number of dates in 2012 and 2013. The court heard that the nephew had sent a solicitor’s letter to his uncle, the priest, with regard to a civil matter on May 24th, 2012. The court was not given any details of the letter.

Bandon man Graham Dwyer lodged an appeal against his conviction for murder. The 42-year-old architect, with an address at Foxrock in Dublin, is originally from Bandon where he went to school.

The delays in road surface repairs in Bantry were blamed on Irish Water. Councillors heard their colleague Cllr Patrick Murphy maintain that parts of the town which badly needed re-surfacing could not be tackled until Irish Water fixed drainage leaks.

A fatal stabbing in Cork Prison resulted in the death of Bandon native, and father of three, Graham Johnson (41). Mr Johnson was serving a five-year sentence for robbery and larceny when he was stabbed to death during a row in the prison kitchen.

The Southern Star’s Facebook page went into overdrive again when a story about Bandon’s Kitty Cotter (101) garnered almost 700,000 views. The paper posted a photo of Kitty voting ‘Yes’ in the successful marriage equality referendum, wearing her ‘rainbow’ jacket and it was shared around the world.

 

JUNE

 

AN €850,000-a-week superyacht Air enjoyed a trip around West Cork in June. The stunning Cayman Islands-registered 265ft beauty had tongues wagging during its visits to Baltimore, Bere Island and Bantry Bay, with everyone from George Clooney to Renee Zellweger rumoured to be on board. 

The owners of the 12-guest and 20-crew yacht are believed to be the Italian Perfetti family, who own Chupa Chups and Mentos mints.

Community groups and small companies around West Cork said they were fearful for their futures, following a massive 70% cut in Leader funding.

While concern was expressed about changes in how the funds are meted out, the main issue facing communities was the cut in cash, the West Cork Development Partnership (WCDP) warned.

West Cork was named as one of the country’s worst blackspots for the new free GP scheme for under 6s, with not one GP signed up to the scheme in the towns of Bandon, Skibbereen or Clonakilty, by mid-June.

A total of 12 practices out of 38 had signed up, representing just 32pc of GPs in the region. As a result, a TD Noel Harrington urged GPs in West Cork to reconsider their stance.

‘Thank you for inviting me,’ were the modest and genuine words of President Michael D Higgins, as he officially opened the Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen.

President Higgins, accompanied by his wife Sabina, also gave an impassioned speech at the unveiling of the O’Donovan Rossa memorial in the town.

It was rumoured that outgoing County Mayor Cllr Alan Coleman was about to resign from the Fianna Fáil party in Cork South West following the party selection convention in Bantry, which saw Bandon-based Cllr Margaret Murphy O’Mahony chosen to contest the upcoming election.

Cllr Coleman withdrew his name just hours before the convention because, he claimed, he had received very little support from party headquarters. He later resigned from the party.

Friends, old and new, gathered on a very special piece of land overlooking the still waters of Dunmanus Bay, to remember and pray for the victims of Air India flight 182, on June 23rd.

Exactly thirty years previously, at 8.12am that day in 1985, a bomb exploded on an Air India flight from Montreal to Delhi, just off the West Cork coast, killing 329 people, 86 of them children.

 

JULY

 

JULY began on a tragic note when Baltimore Lifeboat recovered two casualties from the sea at a place called Eastern Hole bay, below the Beacon, within 15 minutes of being launched.

The bodies of Barry Ryan Snr (51), and his son’s girlfriend Niamh O’Connor (20) were recovered after a freak accident, and following a lengthy search, the body of Barry Davis Ryan (21) was located.

It is understood that a south easterly wind contributed to the tragic accident that occurred on Tuesday evening, as the party of four – Barry Snr his son Barry Jnr, his sister 13-year old Charlotte, and Barry’s girlfriend, Niamh – were walking along the shore near the Beacon and got swept into the sea.

There was more tragedy in Clonakilty that month. Tributes poured in from people who knew Fearghal Beamish from Carrigroe, who tragically lost his life following an accident at his workplace at Clona Dairies.

Senator Denis O’Donovan’s call for a cull of ‘vicious seagulls’ grew wings after he first mentioned it in the Seanad. There was a huge national take-up on the story that, as our headline suggested, ‘ruffled a few feathers’.

Hotels and guesthouses in Cork saw a major upturn in business during the first six months of the year, as the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) was hailed a major success story. Figures from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) showed ‘robust growth’ in Kinsale, Clonakilty, Skibbereen and Bantry, as well as Cork city.

 

AUGUST

 

LUDGATE unveiled its ambitious plans for Skibbereen, backed by top names from the world of business. The was to become the location of a major digital project, with the aim of creating many jobs for the town, and steered by an impressive group of West Cork-based business leaders including Dee Forbes of Discovery TV channels, Sean O’Driscoll of Glen Dimplex and Anne O’Leary ceo of Vodafone Ireland.

A total of 12 outboard engines were taken by thieves who targeted boats moored in Baltimore days before the annual regatta. Gardai believed the thefts were the work of an organised gang as there was a huge level of preparation involved in the operation.Crookhaven hit the news in August when there was an alleged sexual assault on a female at a campsite in the village, after more than 150 teenagers from Cork city ‘invaded’ it. It was just one of a number of incidents that left its 55 residents reeling. Disturbances caused by the binge-drinking youths frightened locals and holidaymakers alike.

Gardai were called to Kealkil after a landowner tried to block Coillte subcontractors from felling and extracting trees. John O’Mahony of Kealkil admitted he placed a trailer at one side of a bridge in a bid to prevent large haulage vehicles from gaining access to a forestry site at Coonacroobeg, but removed the obstruction when asked to do so by two members of the gardai the following day.

It’s not very often that you find yourself the top trending story above One Direction on one of the world’s biggest news websites. But for Liam Murphy (27) from Mishells in Bandon, that was the reality when his story went ‘viral’ on Buzzfeed.com. The former Hammies student found himself at the centre of worldwide media attention after he treated his taxi driver in Abu Dhabi to a day at the Ferrari World theme park.

DELAYS in improving three public water supplies in West Cork, including one in Schull which caters for 2,000 residents, are causing ‘concern’ to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA said this week that supplies in Schull, Kealkil and Drimoleague, had shown high levels of THMs (trihalomethanes) – chemicals which, according to the World Health Organisation, contain suspected carcinogens (agents that cause cancer).

Boyracers left a trail of unsightly ‘doughnuts’ – black tyre marks – in front of the monument site at Béal na Bláth days before the annual commemoration event, where the keynote speaker was Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Visitors to the monument site on Sunday, where Michael Collins was assassinated in 1922, were greeted by the sight of many fresh black tyre marks. 

 

SEPTEMBER

FOLLOWING a horrific case of animal cruelty in Skibbereen, in which a small puppy’s head was skinned alive and her four paws were bitten off, gardai confirmed that a file was prepared for the DPP. Skibbereen gardai said they had fully investigated the horrific case, after the young female lurcher puppy was found dead and discarded on wasteland.

A Skibbereen councillor accused the Government of playing with lives and engaging in stroke politics by delaying the Skibbereen Flood Relief Scheme once again. Fianna Fail Cllr Joe Carroll said: ‘The Government is playing with the lives of countless people in the town who are prone to flooding.’

And the town’s newest Olympians made a splash in the B final of the men’s lightweight double sculls at the World Rowing Championships in France. Brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan finished fifth to claim the last Olympic qualification place on offer.

If dogs could talk, six-year old Oscar would be able to tell his owners where he has been for the last three-and-a-half years. When Siobhan McCormack and her partner Jason Cullen heard that their Jack Russell had been found after so many years, they immediately got in their car and drove straight from Newbridge, Co Kildare, to West Cork – a journey of nearly 200 miles. Oscar had been found wandering around Rossbrin, between Ballydehob and Schull, a few days earlier. 

Extensive September flooding in West Cork was set to cost Cork County Council in the region of €3m, as councillors called for emergency funding following the devastation in parts of the region – specifically the Beara and Mizen peninsulas.

After launching his bid for Dail Eireann, Goleen Cllr Michael Collins (Ind) spoke of an incident which, he said, he very much regretted. Poll-topper Collins, told The Southern Star that before he took up his Council seat, he gave a character reference for a man who was later convicted of underage sex. 

A group of prominent West Cork business people came together in what they call a ‘unified voice’ to support Cork Airport. In a letter to the editor of The Southern Star, the group, comprising six business organisations, representing over 450 members, said they were seeking a ‘clear strategy’ for the airport.

Gardai in Kinsale were investigating a report from Belgooly GAA club that vandals broke in and smeared excrement on the walls of the dressing rooms. It was described as the latest in a number of acts of vandalism at the club.

Sinn Féin’s Rachel McCarthy said she wasn’t taking an anonymous hate mail campaign seriously and that she was even more than determined to win a seat for Sinn Féin in Cork South West. Anonymous letters had been sent to various media outlets in West Cork, which were highly critical of Cllr McCarthy, alleging that she did not have the full support of Sinn Féin in West Cork.

 

OCTOBER

DESPITE a vote by county councillors to reduce the Local Property Tax (LPT) by 5% for 2016, homeowners would end up paying more than last year. Councillors voted 32 to 15 in favour of the 5% cut, following a lengthy debate but had voted for a 10% cut the previous year.

AN environmental group lodged an appeal against a licence for a €3.5m salmon farm in Bantry Bay. Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) lodged the appeal against the granting of the licence to Marine Harvest Ireland (MHI), a multi-national company with offices in Donegal.

Bandon native and TV chat show host Graham Norton said he would donate his share of the profits from his new GN Sauvingon Blanc 2015 wine to the Dogs Trust Charity in the UK. The summertime Ahakista resident, who owns 2% of New Zealand winemakers, Invivo Wines, can now add chief wine maker to his list of credentials after he and the team there blended a Sauvignon Blanc.

There was widespread shock when the news of the death of actress and former Glengarriff resident Maureen O’Hara reached West Cork. Maureen  was 95 when she died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Boise, Idaho. She was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, DC, next to her husband, who died in a plane crash in 1978. Friends from Glengarriff travelled to the funeral and were honoured to carry her coffin.

 

NOVEMBER

A WEST Cork fisheries spokesman rubbished reports that there is widespread exploitation of immigrants in the fishing industry. The manager of Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op, John Nolan, accused the media of making ‘wild, sensational and unsubstantiated statements’ about the industry.

Skibbereen-based tech company Spearline Labs said it would double its workforce in the town by adding 20 new jobs within 18 months. The new jobs were announced during National Digital Week, an event that the organisers have confirmed will be returning to Skibbereen in 2016 after a hugely successful week which brought over 1500 people to the town.

THE mother of a West Cork girl who was left paralysed after a road crash in 2013 called for stricter sentencing for dangerous driving and drink driving offences. Jo Petford, the mother of Kate Petford, who was injured in a road accident which also claimed the life of her friend, said the family were now ready to start rebuilding their lives. Mrs Petford also spoke outside the court which deliberated on the appeal of Seán Casey, of Cooragannive, Skibbereen – the driver of the car on April 8th 2013. He had his sentence reduced from seven years’ jail to four years.

WEST Cork branch delegates of the IFA held an emergency meeting, demanding the entire IFA board step down. The members made the call following the salary controversies involving the former general secretary Pat Smith and the president Eddie Downey.

A concert in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Skibbereen featuring country singing sensation Nathan Carter sold out in just five days. The concert, a fundraiser for the Rath & Islands Parish Assembly, saw more than 800 fans of the Liverpudlian singer of ‘Wagon Wheel’ pack into the church in December.

 

 DECEMBER

PLANNED changes to the LEADER funds for local communities would make the IFA woes ‘look like a teddy bears’ picnic’ compared to what’s coming down the line, a meeting in Macroom was told. The meeting – organised by IRD Duhallow in The Castle Hotel in Macroom – heard that the boundaries for the next round of funding, for the years 2016-2020, have been changed. 

Brilliant Bantry kickboxer Lily de la Cour was on top of the world after becoming the new senior WAKO World Kickboxing champion in her weight category (-50kg). The 21-year-old UCC student got her hands on the biggest title in her impressive career in the Citywest Hotel in Dublin when she won the senior world final against an Italian fighter, Cristiana Forin. 

The people of Bandon came out in force to demand action on a Flood Relief Scheme for their town, as raging floodwaters devastated up to 50 businesses.

‘It’s a total mess-up with Cork County Council and the OPW,’ said Frank O’Leary whose shop O’Leary Fashions was devastated for the second time in six years.

‘We have been let down by the Government,’ said Gillian Powell, owner of the Haven Montessori School  on Watergate St, whose premises also fell victim to Storm Desmond. Minister Simon Harris later visited both Skibbereen and Bandon and promised speedy action on promised flood relief schemes.

 It was reported that Cork County Council has sold a right of way across the Fairfield car park in Skibbereen for €100,000 to a property developer – a decision that may upset the organisers of the town’s successful Farmer’s Market. However, the decision may also open the way for the proposed Aldi discount store to be built early in 2016.

The survival of the executive board of the IFA following a vote of no confidence by its members was described as ‘disappointing’ for West Cork members, who had hoped for a new team to take the organisation forward.

Connolly’s of Leap reopened to huge fanfare, given its iconic status in the 80s and 90s as one of the must-play venues in Ireland for both established and up-and-coming groups.

The year ended with a former mayor of Bandon revealing he had been threatened with expulsion from the Fianna Fáil party for supporting the Independent election candidate Alan Coleman.

Sean O’Donovan claimed he received what he described as a ‘heavy handed’ text from Phil Murphy, brother of the Fianna Fáil candidate, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony to say he should not support non-FF candidates.

And Cllr Joe Carroll welcome the news in Skibbereen that a company employing up to 50 people could be on the cards for the town in 2016. A Cork County Council source confirmed that the IDA has asked the Council to amend the Local Area Plan to facilitate the development of a new factory at Poundlick in Skibbereen.

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