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NEWS REVIEW 2022: July to December

January 3rd, 2023 9:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

Filming for the Netflix series Bodkin had large crowd scenes filling the streets in Union Hall.

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JULY 

THE month started with an announcement that a full review into the investigation of Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s 1996 murder was to be undertaken by An Garda Síochána.

The move followed a preliminary assessment last year into the gruesome murder of the Schull woman, which looked at witness statements and is believed to have assessed if advancements in technology would benefit a full cold-case review.

Meanwhile, West Cork’s best-kept secret finally got out, as Graham Norton’s marriage at a star-studded ceremony in Bantry House made headlines. Rumours of his nuptials had been circulating for some time, and went into overdrive when a huge marquee was erected at his waterfront home in Ahakista, but the 59-year-old presenter’s request for privacy was respected by his guests and friends in the area. 

Bantry House closed to the public for the ceremony where it was said ‘no detail was spared.’ The celebrations continued at the multi-millionaire’s waterfront home in Ahakista where the glamour is said to have been ‘off-the-scale.’ Ed Sheeran and his pal Elton John are believed to have entertained guests at the after party, as well as Lulu. 

Staying with all things showbiz, Hollywood actor and comedian Will Ferrell enjoyed a tour of Kinsale where he posed for photos and kicked a ball around with fans. The Anchorman star was snapped at the Old Head golf links and various bars and had time for a word with everyone he met. Rocker Bob Geldof also visited Skibbereen for a famine memorial project in the same month. 

In Union Hall, a special naming ceremony took place for the local RNLI’s Atlantic 85 lifeboat, Christine and Raymond Fielding. The funding for the lifeboat came from the late Dr Raymond Fielding, a keen mariner and proud Corkman. While Raymond and his wife Christine did not live to see the lifeboat put into service, Raymond asked that it bear both their names.

The month brought a sobering warning from fishermen who said because the rising diesel prices were forcing some of them to stay in port, fish and chips could be off Irish restaurant menus this summer if aid wasn’t made available to the industry immediately. 

Goleen was dealt a blow when it was announced its post office was to close. After the retirement of its postmistress, two individuals indicated their interest to An Post, but it never came to fruition. 

The mayoral chain of office moved further west for another 12 months, as Goleen native Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) was elected unopposed as county mayor taking over from Bandon-based Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF). The Bantry-based publican and brother of TD Michael said his plan for the year was to visit as many towns and villages throughout the county as possible and meet with different voluntary organisations.

July saw Met Éireann put a high temperature warning in place in West Cork when day time temperatures reached the high 20s – and higher in places. The blast of good weather led to some of the busiest days in memory at beaches in the area, with lifeguards at Inchydoney saying the blistering heat attracted some of the biggest crowds ever seen at the blue flag beach.

Barleycove and its pontoon made the headlines on several occasions when unseasonably strong winds and a tidal surge caused the pontoon to be lifted and overturned while people were walking on it. The beach became accessible again after the repaired pontoon was opened to the public, nearly two months after the incident. However, just the following week, an exceptionally high spring tide meant that the newly-installed pontoon ‘fell short’ of what was needed to cross a tidal stream leading to the beach, and people had to wade through water the rest of the way. 

There was widespread shock and fury after AIB announced it was to remove all cash, ATM and cheques services at branches in Kinsale, Dunmanway and Castletownbere from October. The move was branded a ‘disgrace’ and another ‘nail in the coffin’ for rural Ireland. After local, and national outrage, the bank announced it was abandoning the plans just a few days later. 

Meanwhile, residents tired of Skibbereen’s main square looking like a building site, complained to local councillors and called for the work to be completed, the square to be reinstated, and the town hall to be reopened for community and cultural purposes. Cllr Joe Carroll said it ‘has to be the longest running project ever – County Hall didn’t take as long.’ The topic was back in the headlines many times during the year. 

Finally, West Cork’s hospitality sector reported a surge in US visitors but businesses said that fuel costs all but obliterated the day-trippers during the high tourist season. 

AUGUST 

GRAHAM Norton was back in the news at the start of August after his annual turn as MC for the Ahakista Festival Quiz at the end of July. On the night, Graham made just one brief reference to his recent marriage in Bantry House by commenting on a quiz question about gifts for an emerald wedding anniversary. ‘I’ll be 113 for mine,’ he joked.

Bishop Fintan Gavin announced major restructuring of the diocese with the transfer of several priests which meant that several parishes – including Kilmichael, Caheragh, and Aughadown – will no longer have a resident priest. It was described as ‘radical new start’ for the diocese. 

Meanwhile, the population of Sherkin Island increased by almost 50% as the local hotel opened its doors to welcome 57 Ukrainians feeling from war in their home country. 

Michael Collins – the general as opposed to the independent TD – was never far from the headlines this month as it was the centenary of his death. Ahead of the formal commemorations, a new display of his diaries were unveiled at Michael Collins House in Clonakilty. The diaries – which cover the critical time period of 1918 to 1922 – were loaned to the National Archive by Collins’ family, having undergone significant conservation, preservation, archival processing and digitisation.

Politics, past and present were on show when over 12,000 people gathered at Béal na Bláth to watch the historic ceremony to commemorate the centenary of his death on Sunday, August 21st. People travelled from across the country and as far afield as America to visit the memorial of the Irish revolutionary leader, 100 years after the ambush that claimed his life. The day itself was an historic one, as it was the first time that a Fianna Fáil leader made a speech at the yearly commemoration. Both Taoiseach Micheál Martin (FF) and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar (FG) spoke to the crowd about the importance of Michael Collins, and the legacy that he left behind.

Newcestown hosted a unique event on the day: a bid to bring as many people named Michael Collins as possible to the same place and create a world record. In the end, 78 people with the same name turned up for the record breaking attempt!

In other news, it emerged that a 19-year-old Bantry woman was hospitalised, after her drink was spiked on a night out in the town. The teenager issued a warning on social media to other young people about such dangers, following her experience. 

It also emerged that the overflow of a wastewater treatment plant resulted in children swimming in raw sewage at The Warren beach in Rosscarbery. As soon as the authorities became aware of the problem on a Sunday, the Red Flag prohibiting bathing was raised.

Film star Paul Mescal emerged as the latest celebrity to buy a property in West Cork. The Normal People star loved Schull so much when he first visited for the village’s film festival in May that he immediately decided to buy a ‘character farmhouse property’ near the village. 

Meanwhile, Line of Duty star Martin Compston enjoyed a visit to Glandore. He dropped into his ‘local’ Casey’s bar and was snapped in Kalbo’s café in Skibbereen. The Scottish actor who plays Det Steve Arnott in one of the UK’s biggest ever crime series even found time for a round of golf in Skibbereen.

Finally, Cork County Council was accused of acting like Scrooge by refusing to help with the erection of Christmas lights in West Cork towns. 

SEPTEMBER

A CONCERT entitled ‘Remember Me’, was announced for the Harbour View Hotel on September 23rd. It was in memory of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, to mark her 65th birthday, and was likened to a traditional Irish wake. Bill Hogan, one of the organising committee said that it would be an opportunity for friends, family and neighbours to come together to show their respect and esteem for someone who was lost.

Meanwhile, back to school meant another school bus ticket fiasco. Frustrated families across West Cork described the school bus transport system as a ‘complete shambles’ with many of them forced to drive miles to bring their children to and from school after being refused bus tickets. Several parents put the blame firmly on the government’s decision to waive the school transport fees. 

The prolonged dry spell meant that a four week hosepipe ban was introduced due to historically low levels of surface and groundwater in West Cork. Irish Water warned it could take six to eight weeks of normal rainfall to replenish supplies.

Delays with the reopening of Skibbereen town hall were back in the news as planned events for the town’s Arts Festival had to be postponed due to the ongoing closure of the facility. 

The impact of the energy crisis started to really hit home, as it was feared rising costs could force much of West Cork’s tourism and hospitality sector to close during the winter months, according to Neil Grant, manager of the Celtic Ross Hotel. 

He revealed that the hotel paid €7,700 for the hotel’s electricity bill for the month of July 2019, but that figure rose to €8,324 in July 2021. However, it was the July 2022 bill of €18,262 which led him to believe many businesses aren’t going to see the winter out. ‘We are heading for a massive crisis,’ he warned.

Meanwhile, a woman – tired of watching people relieving themselves outside her home – threatened she will start ‘outing’ them with videos on TikTok. She said she was fed up with seeing people piddling in broad daylight on a busy road between Bantry and Dunmanway. She went into great detail too about the piddlers describing one woman in a black coupé car, who hoisted up her long multi-coloured flowing dress, released her bright yellow lace G string, squatted and proceeded to urinate … in full view of the households opposite.

A huge fire broke out about the hills of Ballydehob that required responses from Schull, Skibbereen, Bantry and Dunmanway. It happened within hours of the lifting of a ban on the burning of vegetation. At times the flames were 30ft in the air and it took time for the 30 fire fighters, working as a team, to get it under control.

September saw the 100th Belfast Bus make its way to the Kingsbridge Private Hospital with 24 patients travelling for cataract operations. Independent TDs Michael Collins and Danny Healy-Rae have been running the buses since December 2017, when the first bus took the 1,000km journey with just 13 people on board. Since then, Deputy Collins estimated that up to 3,000 surgeries have taken place in Belfast under the Northern Ireland Health Care Initiative and the former EU Cross Border Directive.

Plans were announced by the Mental Health Commission to reduce the number of beds in an acute mental health facility in the grounds of Bantry Hospital from 18 to 11 and were met with fierce resistance. The Centre for Mental Health Care and Recovery can accommodate residents in a mix of single, two, three, and four-bed rooms. But the Mental Health Commission said it needed to be changed in line with best practice. Later in the month the HSE lodged an appeal in the district court against the closure. 

In better news for Bantry, ambitious plans for a West Cork concert hall and theatre space in the town received the backing of Taoiseach Micheál Martin. For almost 30 years West Cork Music, the company that organises and runs the internationally-renowned Chamber Music, Literary and Masters of Tradition festivals, has searched for a venue of its own and now it seems that search has come to an end.

Deadly avian flu swept along the West Cork coast this month with local conservation ranger Clare Heardman expressing fears it could impact the white-tailed eagle population, which is part of a sensitive conservation project in the Glengarriff area. A Birdwatch Ireland spokesman also said they had hundreds of reports of dead sea birds, mainly gannets, particularly on south and east coasts.

There were scenes of celebration as Rev Ronan Sheehan from Templemartin was ordained in Newcestown. He was the only priest to be ordained in the Diocese of Cork and Ross this year.

And there were emotional scenes when Ballydehob endurance swimmer Steve Redmond had to pull out of his 38km Baltimore harbour to Mizen Head challenge, saying it was the hardest thing he’s ever done. Two years in the planning, he said he could barely remember being pulled from the water just a few kms short of completing the swim which is challenging, not just because of the distance, but also the cross tides.

OCTOBER

SOPHIE Toscan du Plantier really wanted to be Irish – that was the message delivered by the father of the murdered film producer at a special concert held in her honour on Culture Night in Schull in October. 

The words of Georges Bouniol were read at the concert by Jean Pierre Gazeau, the uncle of Sophie, who was murdered near her home at Toormore on December 23rd 1996. The message was read at the end of a concert called Remember Me, after the famous aria, and in acknowledgement of the fact that this was Schull’s answer to ‘a traditional Irish wake’ to honour her memory. 

Skibbereen rowers Aoife Casey, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy, and Margaret Cremen from Rochestown, celebrated their magnificent medal success at the 2022 World Rowing Championships in the Czech Republic in the same month. Fintan and Paul won gold, while Aoife and Margaret won bronze, both crews in lightweight double sculls. See Star Sport for more. 

West Cork hotels slammed the government’s decision to increase the hospitality Vat rate from 9% to 13.5% next March, and said they are taking the flack for ‘price gouging’ carried out by some Dublin hotels. They called for the decision to be reversed because, they said, it comes at a time when rising energy costs are making it increasingly difficult to operate and maintain margins. 

The government must wake up and abandon its climate change targets for now, so people can afford to heat their homes and travel in their cars this winter, Cork South West TD Michael Collins (Ind) said. And he added that the government should drop its ‘suicidal’ net zero targets in favour of a return to burning fossil fuels – at least for the short term. 

It was discovered that a West Cork rally co-driver had helped to rescue two primary school children from the debris following the explosion that claimed the lives of 10 people in Creeslough in Co Donegal, in an tragedy that shocked the whole world. Rosscarbery’s Alistair Wyllie (38) had made the 320-mile trip to Gortahork, just 13 miles from Creeslough, for the Donegal Harvest Rally that weekend. 

It was also reported that week that plans for a €30m windfarm in Gougane Barra would have to be shelved, when it was confirmed that An Bord Pleanála would not contest a judicial review in the High Court taken out by locals op-posed to the project. 

An Bord Pleanála had granted planning permission in February for what would be the biggest windfarm ever proposed in Cork, despite Cork County Council refusing planning permission to the developer, Wingleaf Ltd. 

A heavily pregnant woman was engaged in a stand-off with Cork County Council after the local authority attempted to remove her illegally-parked mobile home from a site in Bantry. 

Christina Delaney, who was nine months pregnant, said she was not for moving and stood guard at the site, beside an official halting site, with her six-year-old daughter Annemarie, her three-year-old son Jim, and her husband Peter (30). 

Redundancy notices were served on three maintenance employees working at Zenith Energy on Whiddy Island, but local TD Michael Collins told the Dáil that he believed more would follow. Zenith Energy, which runs the oil terminal at Whiddy, confirmed redundancies were being sought from its crew on the island. 

A Clonakilty bar announced it was holding acoustic candlelight music sessions every Monday night to beat rising energy bills and the climate crisis. 

The ‘Acoustic Candle Night’ with Danny O’Leary at Casey’s Bar started after owner James Casey said they had decided to do something different, and the plan really resonated with his customers. 

The first female-only ‘Pink Knickers Swim’ took place at Inchydoney as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Proceeds from the event will help fund vital breast cancer research, as well as support the Clonakilty playground fundraiser. 

A woman in Ballydehob said that ‘screaming blue murder’ was the only way to combat issues in the healthcare system. 

Lisa Deegan told The Southern Star it was only after she rang both Bantry and Cork University Hospitals repeatedly, as well as emailing the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Health.

The Obama-backed Netflix se Clonakilty and Kinsale were among 12 towns in the country whose waste water plants failed to treat sewage to EU standards last year, a report revealed. 

The tourist towns were identified in a damning report by the EPA which said that the area’s plants have the capacity to meet the treatment standards, and met them in 2020, but failed in 2021. This means poorly treated raw sewage was going into local waterways. The environmental watchdog also highlighted in the report that untreated sewage is still being discharged daily into the environment in Castletownshend. 

THE community of Clonakilty was plunged into grief by the sudden death of former Cork and Clonakilty GAA footballer Padraigh Griffin in October. Padraigh was best known for his footballing exploits in the red and green jersey of Clonakilty, having been one of the county’s most naturally gifted footballers. 

Readers were captured by the story of Martin and Púca, two deaf rescue cats in need of a forever home. ‘They came into foster care within a week of each other and bonded instantly,’ Julia Bertram of the West Cork Animal Welfare Group told The Southern Star. 

On their very first night together, they cuddled up and were deemed inseparable ever since. 

NOVEMBER

WEST Cork claimed two of the top prizes at this year’s SuperValu Tidy Towns awards in November, with Clonakilty taking the Tidiest Small Town prize, with 365 marks, while Rosscarbery, with 364 marks, was named the Tidiest Village for 2022. Meanwhile, Bere Island was awarded 347 marks and named Tidiest Island, with Sherkin highly commended. We’re absolutely delighted,’ John Moloney, chairman of Rosscarbery Tidy Towns, told The Southern Star. ‘The whole community put in a lot of work over many years and this is our crowning glory. It takes a lot of work from everyone, work that was never refused, and it was all worth it in the end.’ 

An architecture student won an award for her design plans based on the former Sisters of Mercy convent in Skibbereen. Orla McCarthy’s winning project, on the refurbishment and re-design of the Sisters of Mercy Convent, took the top prize at the Interior Architecture Student National Design Awards. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of his former colleague and good friend Donal Moynihan – the father of Cork North West Fianna Fáil TD Aindrias and Cork County Cllr Gobnait. Mr Moynihan was a native of Gort na Scairte, between Ballymakeera and Coolea. He was a lifelong member of Fianna Fáil and a much-respected former councillor and TD. 

After four decades, Caheragh native Chief Supt Con Cadogan bid farewell to two Cork garda divisions. Drug-related crime and keeping community links are the greatest challenges facing the force into the future, he believes. Colleagues and family attended a farewell dinner for him in Kinsale.

West Cork’s seven islands face being abandoned like the Blaskets were in the 50s, due to a lack of housing, a stark new report suggested. The UCC report claimed that the housing crisis threatens the sustainability of life on Bere, Dursey, Heir, Long, Oileán Chléire, Sherkin and Whiddy. Its authors have now urged the government to urgently invest in innovative housing policies to protect the island populations. 

A total of 238 island residents – almost half of all adult islanders – took part in a survey which showed that almost all (93%) were concerned for the future of young people on their island, amid uncertainty surrounding housing availability and affordability. 

Dursey’s cable car, which links islanders with the mainland and closed last April, may not now open until January, Cork County Council admitted, in an exclusive story by reporter Jackie Keogh. The original deadline for completing the replacement of the two towers for the cable car was originally to be mid-November. But the Council told The Southern Star that the opening has been delayed due to a ‘minor but essential’ part that needs to be sourced. The Council said it could be January before the cable car would be restored.

Baltimore-based chef Ahmet Dede with his partner Carly and baby Aleyna, celebrated Ahmet being named the National Chef of the Year at the prestigious Food & Wine Restau- rant of the Year awards. Ahmet’s Michelin-starred restaurant Dede is based at the old Customs House in Baltimore. 

An increase in the turnaround times for ambulances is putting people’s lives at risk, according to Independent Cllrs Declan Hurley and Paul Hayes who raised concerns about patient safety at either ends of the constituency when it emerged that the south west has ‘the longest average’ turnaround times. 

They claim the average time in the south west – at over an hour and 15 minutes – is more than double what it should be, and does not compare favourably to the national average of 52 minutes. 

The public was urged to watch out for hundreds of deadly Portuguese Man O’War washed up on local beaches as the mild weather and increasing effects of climate change seemed to come home to roost. 

The people of West Cork paid tribute to cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan, who died in November, with a book of condolence at County Hall and online. The Limerick mum-of-two got a false negative cervical cancer result in 2011 and died on from the illness, having tirelessly campaigned for the women affected by the scandal. Disability activist Evie Nevin from Clonakilty de- scribed Vicky as an inspiration, having connected with her during the Dying with Dignity campaign. 

A juvenile who dragged a female garda into a patrol car, after pulling her hair, and then pushed her back out onto the ground, is ‘clearly a boy out of control’, a judge said. 

‘He seems to do what he wants, when he wants, and his parents don’t seem to care,’ said Judge James McNulty, after hearing the details of the case, including how the boy vomited and urinated so badly in a cell that his mother offered to clean it up herself when she saw it. 

The juvenile was charged with assaulting gardaí, assaulting three other people, theft of a mobile phone and being drunk in a public place. He pleaded guilty to the possession of cannabis. 

A mini boat released in the north Atlantic last April that eventually ended up in secluded Barry’s Cove in July led to new found friendships between the sixth class at Barryroe National School and sixth graders of Morristown Beard School in New Jersey in the USA. 

The boat, which was equipped with a GPS tracker, was launched by the American students on April 23rd as part of the Educational Passages project. 

Fears that the driving test centre in Skibbereen would be downgraded, and then closed, were rejected as ‘absolute nonsense’, by the Road Safety Authority (RSA). 

A new book published by a Cork writer and art historian looked at the incredible life of Blessed Thaddeus McCarthy who lends his name to one of West Cork’s best-known GAA clubs. Born in Caheragh, his images adorn several churches and cathedrals, as the book revealed.

DECEMBER

A GEORGIAN country house in Timoleague, which was over 219 years old, and formerly the seat of the Beamish brewing family, was burned to the ground following a devastating fire, leaving its owners homeless.. The two occupants of Kilmaloda House, both French nationals, managed to escape and avoid serious injury. They were later taken to CUH and treated for smoke inhalation.

The High Court approved a personal insolvency arrangement (PIA) allowing a former property developer and investor from Timoleague to write-off approximately €170m of debt owed to parties, including Nama and various financial institutions. The PIA was made in favour of 55-year-old Barry Harte, from Chapel Hill, Timoleague who is to provide a total of €80,000 to his creditors. Harte is a former dentist and a prominent figure in local GAA circles.

Christmas came early for 11 students from Rossmore after an extra bus was provided to take them to secondary school. The students, who were ‘concessionary’ bus ticket holders – their nearest school is in Rosscarbery – were not given seats on the school bus initially because the service was over-subscribed after the Minister opted to waive school bus fees this year.

Dursey Island will have been cut off from the mainland for a year by the time the ropes for its cable car arrive, councillors were told. At a West Cork Municipal District meeting, the county engineer Kevin Morey confirmed that track ropes, which support the cable car, will need to be replaced and that the new date for opening is now Easter 2023.

Parents protested over the proposed change of use of CoAction’s Child and Family Centre in Bantry and a large crowd of between 400 and 500 people took to the town’s streets. The controversial decision was later reversed, but not before several members of the CoAction board had resigned.

Gardaí investigating the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier outside Schull in 1996 said they knew more information is out there in the wider community in West Cork to help solve the mystery of the French film producer’s death. 

Supt Joe Moore of Bantry Garda Station made the comment at a media briefing and public appeal for information in Schull Harbour Hotel and added that there may be some witnesses who were not in a position in 1996 to talk, but may be able to now.

The Muskerry region was hit by two tragedies after one woman died after being knocked down by a car in the aftermath of her uncle’s funeral in Ballingeary, while another woman was killed after being struck by one of the last lorries to travel through Macroom, minutes after the town’s new bypass opened.

Gobnait Ní Thuama (51) from Ballingeary was fatally injured after a car struck her, and other pedestrians at Dromanallig, Ballingeary. And Patricia Daly (68), originally from Ahakista, but living in Moneygaff East in Enniskeane, was fatally injured on Main Street in Macroom town centre, following a collision with a truck.

Bere Island’s links to Argentina were celebrated in style after the thrilling win by Messi and his team at the World Cup. Bere descendant Guillermo Murphy’s said his family’s superstitious routine of watching his country play, in a line in front of the TV, paid off, as they celebrated their country’s victory. Many Bere Islanders left West Cork in the 1800s to find work on the Argentinian railroads.

District Court Judge James NcNulty said that anyone who urinates or defecates in garda custody should be made clean up the mess themselves. He said he had come across a number of similar ‘distasteful’ cases in the last few months in the district courts of West Cork.

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