CONGO 1961: PADDY WALL HAS BUSY JOB

UN helmet of the type my father brought back to London after reporting from the Congo in 1961

UN helmet of the type my father brought back to London after reporting from the Congo in 1961

Paddy has busy job   Irish Press October 9th 1961

From DESMOND FISHER  Elizabethville, by air mail.

One of the busiest Irish soldiers in the Congo is Patrick Wall of Gregg, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary. Paddy is official chauffeur to Dr. Conor Cruise O’Brien, the U.N. chief political officer in Katanga.

An expert driver, Paddy came to the Congo with the 35th Irish Batt. He was soon afterwards seconded to Dr. O’Brien as chauffeur. He finds his job supremely interesting. Sometimes it is a bit dangerous too. Once he was stoned in the car by himself.  (I trust you know what my father meant by that! — MF)

There is always too, the chance that someone will take a pot-shot at Dr. O’Brien. But Paddy is not worried. “It’s all in the day’s work”, he says.

Paddy lives at Dr O’Brien’s villa, Les Roches, on a hill on the outskirts of Elizabethville. It is guarded by a platoon of Irish troops with an armoured car.

Paddy is married and has four children, Geraldine (7); Patricia (6); Patrick (5) and Kieran (4).

Desmond Fisher report in The Irish Press October 9th 1961

Desmond Fisher report in The Irish Press October 9th 1961

IRISH CHAPLAIN IN CONGO 1961

Desmond Fisher report from the Congo 10th October 1961  The Irish Press

Desmond Fisher report from the Congo 10th October 1961 The Irish Press

IRISH AID IN HORROR CAMP  Chaplain Works for Balubas 

(From Desmond Fisher)   ELIZABETHVILE  (By Air Mail) —

The 40,000 Baluba men, women and children in the rag-and-cardboard refugee city in Elizabethville are ‘my children’ to Rev. Joseph Clarke, chaplain to the 35th Irish Battalion in the Congo.

Father Clarke is the friend, counsellor and refuge of the Balubas in all the terrible afflictions which are their lot.

Every morning, immediately after his Mass at 6:30 for the soldiers, Father Clarke sets out for the refugee camp near the Irish battalion headquarters. The camp chiefs wait for him and tell him their troubles — someone shot or hacked to pieces during the night; lack of food; danger from the Jeunesse Nationale Katanga, the teddy-boy youth movement which is terrorising the camp, and so on.

The chaplain moves round the different family groups in the camp speaking to them in his fluent French. He has organised the Irish section of the camp, where there are 5,000 families, into 14 groups. Each has its own administrative organisation which Father Clarke established. This administration supervises the daily distribution of food and settles disputes as to where the families can live.

Ordained in 1938, Father Clarke is an ‘old hand’ in Africa. He spent four years in Nigeria after his ordination before joining the Army as a chaplain. To him the African is a child, who will trust the European implicitly and will depend on him absolutely. This is fine until the African meets a white man who treats him badly or lets him down. Then he loses faith in all white men.

Katanga problem

In Katanga, there are more white men than in most parts of Africa; therefore the chances that the African will come up against a “bad white” are greater. Fot that reason, Father Clarke thinks, the African in Katanga has become a different sort of person. He is no longer simply a bush native, and yet a few years in a white-dominated city do not turn him into a civilised, democratically-minded person in our sense.

“You cannot take a native out of the bush, educate him for a few years and expect him to be like yourself”, says the chaplain.

As regards “his” refugee camp, Father Clarke says that the sooner it closes down the better. It is becoming a hiding-place for criminals, and a breeding place of violence and murder. Almost every night someone is killed in the camp and some horrible atrocities have come to light.

The least revolting of them is the killing of a Katangese native, the servant of a gendarme officer, whom the Balubas caught as he was passing their camp. He was found dead next morning with his hands and feet cut off: he had bled to death. The camp has also attracted the 5,000 unemployed Balubas in Elizabethville who have come in for free food and accommodation, such as it is.

Father Clarke fears two things. One is that the rains which are due shortly will wash away the flimsy shelters of the refugees and force them to break into the nearby villas vacated by white people. His other fear is that the Jeunesse youths will become the pawns of Communist-type agitators, who will use them to stir up trouble.

But, despite the dangers, Father Clarke continues to give most of his time and energies to helping the 40,000 Baluba people to whom he is “father”.      Oct 10 1961

NEW MANDATE FOR UN IN CONGO? (1961)

UNimagesFrom DESMOND FISHER  The Irish Press November 11th 1961

The United Nations Security Council is expected to meet next Tuesday to consider the burning question of the Congo. The main question before it will be the question of giving a new mandate to the U.N. political and military missions there.

African delegations who are pushing the request for the Security Council meeting are becoming increasingly anxious about the deteriorating position in the Congo and the growing complication of the political and military situation. Under the existing mandate the U.N. recognises the unity of the Congo, instructs its forces to secure the removal of the foreign mercenaries there and authorises the use of force, if necessary.    

The attack by the Central Government forces on Katanga has radically changed the situation. These troops, under Gen. Mobututu, the Leopoldville Commander, and Gen. Lundula, the commander of Gizenga’s Stanleyville force, are trying to end Katanga’s secession and bring the province under the Central Government.

But what is not clear at present is the part that the U.N. forces should play in this internal struggle. Should they assist the Central Government forces in ending Katanga’s secession? Or should they intervene between the two opposing forces in order to prevent bloodshed.

Many African delegations in the U.N. are in favour of using force to assist the Central Government efforts, but other delegations fear that this would be setting a dangerous precedent.

So far U.N. forces have not intervened in the Kasai fighting between the Central Government and Katangese troops. U.N. activity in the area has been limited to air patrol of the border area where the fighting took place.

Reports now reaching London now suggest, however, that U.N. planes were not in the air on the day of the clash between the two forces near Kanaima because fuel supplies had been stopped due to the arrest of two key oil company personnel. This gave the Katangans air superiority and their bombing and strafing completely disorganised the Mobutu troops.

Gen. McKeown, the U.N. Commander, who was recalled from his leave in Dublin, is at present visiting Luluaborg the staging point for the Central Government troops, with Mr. Rhiari, the U.N. negotiator. It is also reported that the U.N. is being pressed by the Central Government to take an active part in the struggle to end the Katanga secession.

During his recent visits to London and Dublin, Gen. McKeown was doubtful about the sufficiency of the present U.N. mandate to end the trouble in the Congo. His view is that as long as the foreign mercenaries give the Katangese forces the superiority over the Central Government troops, the situation in the Congo is likely to deteriorate.

Meanwhile, Belgium has refused to contribute any more money toward the U.N. Congo operation until the position there is clarified.

Announcing this decision which he said came into operation 14 days ago, M. Spaak, the Belgian Foreign Minister, said Belgium must not do anything to imply approval of U.N. actions in the Congo. He added that a number of Belgian Nationals had a right to compensation.

Desmond Fisher report from London in The Irish Press November 11th 1961

Desmond Fisher report from London in The Irish Press November 11th 1961

DAG SHOT DOWN, SAY EXPERTS

Desmond Fisher report in The Irish Press, 21st September 1961

Desmond Fisher report in The Irish Press, 21st September 1961

Following on from yesterday’s post about Dag Hammarskjöld, this is how my late father Desmond Fisher reported the fatal plane crash in the Congo in 1961. His report was filed from Leopoldville and appeared in The Irish Press on September 21st 1961. He was London Editor at the time and on assignment in the Congo to report on the Irish contingent serving with the United Nations).

DAG SHOT DOWN, SAY EXPERTS (From Desmond Fisher)

LEOPOLDVILLE, Wednesday —  The plane in which United Nations Secretary General Mr. Dag Hammarskjoeld and 14 others — including an Irishman, Mr. Francis Eivers, U.N. Security Guard — lost their lives on Monday night, was almost certainly shot down by long-distance rocket fire from a Katanga Fouga jet fighter.

This conviction is growing among leading U.N. experts here but they say the world will never be told the true story. Fill disclosures of the facts might, they think, act as a spark to touch off a major world explosion.

The experts quote, as grounds for their belief, three pieces of evidence: 

1–The report from Ndola Airport control tower that an unidentified aircraft circled the field shortly before the crash.

2–Eyewitness accounts of seeing two or three explosions in the sky.

3–Reports from the lone survivior, U.N. Security Officer, Harold Julien, who is still seriously ill but reported to be “holding his own”.

Sergeant Julien is reported to have said that the plane was rocked by several explosions just before the crash.

Three Swedish experts are on their way to the scene of the crash to conduct the official investigation. The Northern Rhodesian Government, I understand, has refused to let any other investigators in.

Jet bitterness 

Meanwhile, I learned authoritatively tonight that the three Ethiopian jet fighters held up in Kano, Nigeria, for the past four days, will fly to the Congo tomorrow. There is bitter indignation in U.N. circles here at what is regarded as deliberate British stalling tactics in refusing to give the jets clearance.

Many U.N. officials believe that if the jets had been allowed to leave Kano when they were first due to take off, Mr. Hammarskjoeld would be alive today.

The new jets are expected to give the U.N. force air superiority in Katanga. They are far faster and more heavily armed than the two Fouga jets which operate from Kolwezi and which are believed to be flown against U.N. targets by a pilot of Rhodesian nationality.

If the Katangan fighting is resumed, and the Fougas take to the air, the U.N. jets will attack. They will probably be flown by Swedish pilots of the U.N. air command.

Desmond Fisher report in The Irish Press, 21st September 1961

Desmond Fisher report in The Irish Press, 21st September 1961

DAG HAMMARSKJöLD

The wreckage of Dag Hammarskjöld’s aircraft at Ndola on 19th September 1961. Photo: AP

The wreckage of Dag Hammarskjöld’s aircraft at Ndola on 19th September 1961. Photo: AP

Dag Hammarskjöld: evidence suggests UN chief’s plane was shot down — The Guardian

New information uncovered by a UN panel on the death of former secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld (aged 56) should be investigated to establish whether his plane was attacked just before it crashed in southern Africa, the UN chief said on Monday (July 6th). After receiving the report, the secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, said “a further inquiry or investigation would be necessary to finally establish the facts” surrounding the mysterious crash more than 50 years ago.

The panel “found new information, which it assessed as having moderate probative value, sufficient to further pursue aerial attack or other interference as a hypothesis of the possible cause of the crash”, said UN spokesman Farhan Haq. The answers may lie in classified documents from the United States and Britain that the panel was unable to consult, despite requests for access. Ban said he would follow up on the requests. 

Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary General  Photo: UN

Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary General Photo: UN

The UN’s second secretary-general, Hammarskjöld died when his plane crashed on 17 or 18 September 1961 near Ndola in Northern Rhodesia, now known as Zambia. The Swedish diplomat was on his way to negotiate a ceasefire for mining-rich Katanga province in what was the Republic of the Congo, which had proclaimed independence from Belgium.

The three-person panel spoke to witnesses in Zambia who testified that there was more than one aircraft in the air when the plane made its approach to Ndola, or that the plane was on fire before it hit the ground. These accounts seemed to corroborate information contained in a 2013 report by a separate commission that concluded that there was “convincing evidence” that the plane was shot down as it prepared to land.

A former US air force security officer, Paul Abram, told the panel that he heard transmissions about the shooting down of an aircraft near Congo while serving at a National Security Agency listening post in Greece. The panel said it could not authenticate Abram’s claims.

The US government wrote in a letter to the panel last month that a search had not revealed any documents on radio transmissions but added that other files classified as top secret from the National Security Agency would not be released. Among the new information uncovered by the panel was a declassified report from a senior British diplomat to a secret service agent, Neil Ritchie, who details how he helped the Katanga leader Moise Tshombe travel to Ndola for his meeting with Hammarskjöld.

The report did not mention the possible crash but “its existence and content serves as new information about the presence of the British intelligence agency in the area”, said the UN panel. The British government responded last month in a letter to the panel that it would not be able to provide more information on the case due to security concerns.

The UN General Assembly in late December adopted a resolution, drafted by Sweden, that called for the new investigation to finally shed light on the top diplomat’s death. Led by the Tanzanian prosecutor Mohamed Chande Othman, the panel also included Kerryn Macaulay of Australia and Henrik Larsen of Denmark.

This report is from The Guardian three weeks ago. Five years ago my late father, who was reporting for The Irish Press from the Congo at the time of the crash in September 1961, wrote this article about the event in which an Irish UN security guard (ex Garda) Frank Ievers was also killed:

Death of top UN official still shrouded in mystery

Secretary-general killed in suspicious plane crash en route to broker a ceasefire in the Congo, writes Desmond Fisher  

The late Desmond Fisher, former London Editor, The Irish Press  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

The late Desmond Fisher, former London Editor, The Irish Press Photo: © Michael Fisher

PUBLISHED  September 19th 2010  Sunday Independent

On this weekend 49 years ago, the world was shaken by news of a mysterious air crash in Africa. The bodies of 16 people were recovered from the wreck. Some had multiple bullet wounds in their heads and bodies. The airport’s handling of the pre-crash warnings was sub-standard. Other aircraft were seen in the area. Strange lights were reported over the airport. And a famous man, on a mission to prevent what might degenerate into a world war, was among the dead. It was September 18th, 1961. And the dead man was Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary-general of the United Nations. His death shocked the world. The previous afternoon, Hammarskjöld’s DC-6B plane had left Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) in the Congo en route to Ndola in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). He had arranged a meeting with Moise Tshombe, president of the rebel State of Katanga, which was now engaged in a war to become independent from the Congo.

Katangese soldiers were fighting UN peacekeeping forces sent in to prevent civil war. With the UK, the US and Belgium clandestinely helping the rebels, Russia making bellicose noises and a world war threatening, Hammarskjöld was trying to arrange a ceasefire.

In the early morning, the news came that his plane had crashed. At the time, I was in a crowded pressroom at UN HQ in Leopoldville. Senior UN officials and hardened war correspondents sobbed uncontrollably. Every one of them was of one mind. Hammarskjöld had been assassinated.

Ireland was deeply involved in the Congo crisis. Lt Gen Sean McKeown was in command of all UN peacekeeper troops there to support the government in its efforts to prevent Katanga from seceding. Dr Conor Cruise O’Brien was Hammarskjöld’s special representative in Katanga. A battalion of Irish soldiers was engaged in heavy fighting. Only three days earlier, Trooper Pat Mullins from Kilbehenny, Co Cork, was killed in an ambush. And 150 Irish soldiers were prisoners of the Katangese.

What happened to Hammarskjöld and 15 others is still disputed. Former US president Harry Truman said bluntly that he was killed. Allegations that his plane had been shot down, deliberately given wrong instructions, or sabotaged, were never proven.

Thirty-seven years after the crash, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission quoted recently discovered letters linking MI5, the CIA and the South African secret services with the crash, including the suggestion that a bomb was placed in the plane’s wheel bay to explode when the plane touched down. And as recently as 2005, a Norwegian soldier who was the first UN official to see Hammarskjöld’s dead body said it had a hole in the head that was air-brushed out of the post-mortem photos.

Hammarskjöld’s death was regarded as a major blow to the UN. But the moral force that is the organisation’s greatest weapon was greatly reinforced by what was seen as the assassination of a spiritual man who was regarded by some as the ‘secular Pope’.

Only (47 – incorrect) 56 when he died, Hammarskjöld came from a family with many generations of public service, his father having been prime minister of Sweden. Among his earliest decisions as secretary-general was to appoint only non-partisan and fair-minded officials to his 4,000 staff. His ultimate aim was to establish an independent UN force.

Hammarskjöld was a highly introspective man. He did not give interviews and I had to rely on the influence of Freddie Boland, that year’s president of the General Council, to arrange for me to see him. He did not invite me to sit and reacted animatedly only when I asked him how he rated Ireland’s contribution to the UN. He spoke highly of the way Ireland, as a non-aligned country, was able to act as an “honest broker” and help to solve many of the UN’s problems. And he praised genuinely and enthusiastically Ireland’s contribution to the UN’s mission to the Congo.

Hammarskjöld kept what he called his ‘journal’ — a combination of diary entries and spiritual thoughts cloaked in haiku-style poetry — published after his death as Markings. In it, he wrote: “Everything will be all right when people stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction and see it as a drawing they made themselves.”

He regarded his own writings as “negotiations with myself and with God”. One such aphorism gives an idea of his tortuous mind:

Tomorrow we shall meet

Death and I —

And he shall thrust his sword

Into one who is wide awake.

C-TEK CARRICKMACROSS

Computer-generated image of C-TEK Carrickmacross  Photo: O'Hanlon Property

Computer-generated image of C-TEK Carrickmacross Photo: O’Hanlon Property

C-TEK BUILDING NEARS COMPLETION

Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Thursday 2nd July

The C-Tek building beside the Civic Offices will represent the new face of Carrickmacross when it opens in the coming weeks. This will give hope for the future, at a time when the town is still reeling from the loss of a major manufacturing facility, Bose, with the loss of 140 jobs. The team behind the development of this site hope it will bring the same success as the M-Tek building in Monaghan town, where a second similar building had to be added to meet demand.

The workspace, designed to attract start-ups and new companies, consists of a two-storey building, offering 10,000 square feet of space with nine units. A number of tenants have already been found. The idea for the project came about following a study which identified a need for modern workspace in Carrickmacross. Work began last August on the building which cost €1.4 million.

It’s hoped the workspace, which will have units ranging from 250 square feet to 1,000 square feet, will appeal to business start-ups and will attract anyone with new ideas.

Councillor Padraig McNally said the County Council were not looking for businesses that are long-established and are well able to pay the going rate. This would be very affordable accommodation, he said and every application would be decided on its merits. Up to now the schemes in both Carrickmacross and Monaghan were not being abused by long-established businesses, he said. He also pointed out that a start-up could mean someone who had been in business for five years but it could take twenty years before they were successful.

The building offers an opportunity to locate a business in a newly constructed modern office facility with outstanding features, location and flexibility. C-Tek (standing for Carrickmacross Technology Education and Knowledge) is designed and built to offer an enhanced commercial working environment in the town. It has been developed by Monaghan County Enterprise Fund and Monaghan County Council. The space offers new and established businesses an opportunity to move to a landmark building and pleasant working environment, complemented by modern facilities including excellent Information Technology infrastructure, dedicated fibre optic broadband, security, ample car parking and easy access to the town centre and main roads. It’s also an hour from Dublin and could appeal to business people in the greater Dublin area who are looking for start-up space or providing professional services.

It’s a two-storey building, with flexible size office suites available starting at 250 square feet up to 1,000 square feet. Its features include a high standard of construction, quality finish, elevator to first floor, high quality electrical and fibre optic cabling, canteen and toilet facilities.

Flexible lease terms, exceptionally keen rent and service charge.

Carrickmacross offers a wide variety of amenities and community facilities including shops, schools, sports, leisure clubs, hotels and restaurants. For enquiries, please contact Shane O’Hanlon of O’Hanlon Property on (042) 9662222 or mobile (086) 2374261 or email shane@ohanlonproperty.ie.

LACPATRICK: THE NEW ULSTER DAIRY BRAND

Gabriel D’Arcy, Chief Executive of newly formed LacPatrick Co-op and Aidan McCabe, Dairy Adviser, with the new Lacpatrick logo  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Gabriel D’Arcy, Chief Executive of newly formed LacPatrick Co-op and Aidan McCabe, Dairy Adviser, with the new Lacpatrick logo Photo: © Michael Fisher

END OF AN ERA FOR TOWN OF MONAGHAN CO-OP AS MERGER APPROVED WITH BALLYRASHANE

Lacpatrick: Dairy by Ireland Since 1896 is the new brand

Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Thursday 23rd July p.2

Town of Monaghan Co-Op is to enter a new era in September following the virtually unanimous approval on Tuesday of its merger with the Ballyrashane Co-Op in North Antrim. The new company to be known as LacPatrick is said to be a platform for growth, against a backdrop of a challenging global market. It is described by the two Chief Executives as a ‘game-changing’ merger, which includes plans for further significant new investment later this year at Artigarvan near Strabane as a critical part of the new Co-op’s growth strategy.

New logo and brand name for the two merged co-ops in Monaghan and Ballyrashane

New logo and brand name for the two merged co-ops in Monaghan and Ballyrashane

The name LacPatrick reflects the size and scale of the new operation and its strong global ambitions to grow the business in Ireland and beyond. The new entity will be led by a new Board of Directors comprising the former two Boards, with a new management team headed up by Gabriel D’Arcy and Nigel Kemps – former CEOs of Town of Monaghan Co-op and Ballyrashane Co-op respectively.  Mr D’Arcy will be the new Chief Executive, with Mr Kemps appointed as Deputy Chief Executive. Monaghan will continue to be a headquarters for the new entity and it will also be the site for research and development. Tuesday’s meeting in Monaghan was attended by around 200 shareholders/suppliers and 93% of them voted in favour, slightly more than had endorsed the plan at the first special meeting at the start of this month. In Ballyrashane the vote was 100% in favour.

Standing are Gabriel D’Arcy (Chief Executive of newly formed LacPatrick Co-op) and Nigel Kemps (Deputy Chief Executive LacPatrick Co-op), with (seated) Hugo Maguire (Chairman, LacPatrick Co-op) and Roy Irwin Deputy Chairman. Photo: © Brian Thompson Photography

Standing are Gabriel D’Arcy (Chief Executive of newly formed LacPatrick Co-op) and Nigel Kemps (Deputy Chief Executive LacPatrick Co-op), with (seated) Hugo Maguire (Chairman, LacPatrick Co-op) and Roy Irwin Deputy Chairman. Photo: © Brian Thompson Photography

Gabriel D’Arcy told the Northern Standard he was delighted with the strong confirmatory vote from both sets of shareholders, and the decision for the two companies to come together to become a powerful new force in the Ulster dairy sector.  “We now have the scale and ambition to win in what is currently a very challenging and competitive marketplace.  Given the volatility of global dairy markets, this merger further underlines the importance and significance of this ambitious move by our two companies”, he said.

“Our shared geography and production facilities, technologies and customer listings, together with the combined balance sheet strength, offers a unique opportunity to create a true leader in the Ulster dairy food sector, focused on innovation and competitiveness.  This potential for clear and endurable market leadership will ensure that the new merged entity will continue to make competitive and sustainable returns to our members, the dairy farmers of Ulster.  This merger is a platform for future growth for all associated with LacPatrick and, we look forward to making further announcements in the weeks and months ahead regarding future investment.”

Nigel Kemps of Ballyrashane said: “This merger is particularly necessary when we look at the state of the market and especially the poor returns paid to producers. The size and scale that we now have as a merged entity will ensure we can be more competitive, and achieve better returns. Our aim is to give dairy farmers in the north of the island confidence to grow their own businesses and herds.  LacPatrick as a combined entity can achieve scale and volumes, delivering more than the two separate companies could have done on their own.”

The name LacPatrick has been chosen to reflect the core ethos of the newly merged Co-op, which is to bring its innovative and excellent dairy products to consumers at home and internationally. Lac is a Latin word for milk, and Patrick is synonymous with the island of Ireland. The two combine to create a name which underpins the newly birthed Co-op’s rich heritage, but also speaks of its ambitions to grow and develop.

The added strap-line ‘DAIRY BY IRELAND Since 1896’ is a clear statement of its longevity in its markets and communities and defines the solidity of the new entity. The new logo features a modern red map pin to celebrate LacPatrick’s location in the rich and fertile northern part of the island.  A four- leafed clover emphasises its good fortune in being situated in an area of such natural bounty and the milk drop symbolises the central focus of the business.  The green colour is reflective of the nutritious grass of Ulster’s pastures and the natural goodness of the island of Ireland.

The new name will be used at trade fairs and to market the new company on the global milk market.  It will also appear on tankers in conjunction with the individual consumer brands of the two former Co-ops.  Existing product brands such as Champion milk and Ballyrashane Butter will remain. LacPatrick will officially commence trading on September 1st 2015.

Town of Monaghan Co-op employs 150 people and is a farmer owned co-operative with a turnover of approximately €250m.  It has approximately 950 farmers supplying 460 million litres annually.  The milk is processed at Coolshannagh, Monaghan and at TMC Dairies (NI) Ltd in Artigarvan, Co. Tyrone.  Yogurt, liquid milk, cream, butter, bulk skim milk and bulk evaporated skim milk are produced at its Monaghan headquarters with spray dried, whole milk and skim milk dairy powders being produced at Artigarvan.

Ballyrashane Co-op’s main site is located close to the world famous Giant’s Causeway on the North Antrim Coast.  Renowned for its innovation, the company has in recent years expanded to its current position as a leading dairy supplier within the global market, boasting a wide portfolio of products and employing approximately 150 staff. Ballyrashane remains true to its roots as an independent co-operative still owned by local farmers and contributes financially, socially and environmentally to the local rural community. It has an annual turnover of approximately £80m and buys 100m litres of milk from around 100 local farmers.

Gabriel D’Arcy told me he had been truly humbled with the turnout and engagement at the recent shareholders’ meetings regarding the merger. The strong endorsement of our plans reflected the common sense approach of the Monaghan shareholders and  the shared vision and ambition of our community, he said. The current weakness and difficulties in the dairy sector underlined the importance and necessity of this plan and already it was being put forward as a shining light for the sector in Ireland and the need to consolidate for the benefit of suppliers and customers alike.

Asked about the new name, brand and image for the new entity, he said it had been an energising exercise to find something that reflected the shared heritage, the fertile region, the skilled and committed suppliers and the global vision of the co-op, with the vast majority of output destined for outside the European Union. “We want to tell the world what we do and what makes us special and distinctive, and firmly establish ourselves on the global dairy market in terms of quality and innovation. We want to highlight our region while maintaining a quintessentially Irish image, with its strong positive dairy connotation”, Mr D’Arcy said.

Out of these many desires emerged the name LacPatrick.

  • Lac meaning Milk
  • Patrick , with its strong Irish association
  • Dairy by Ireland – where else !
  • Since 1896 – our heritage

This new imagery will be used on all of milk tankers, uniforms, stationery, website and all outdoor and indoor signage. The existing and award winning brands, Ballyrashane, Champion and LP will be retained, while providing a common and exciting platform for growth, at home and abroad.

Mr D’Arcy believes both businesses complement each other. He said Ballyrashane had a specialised fractionated butter business while Town of Monaghan was committed to new processing technologies, which will allow them to add value to the non-butter components of milk. With this in mind a commitment has already been made to invest between €25m and €30m at the Artigarvan plant in Tyrone.

“Both businesses also have a robust brand profile in the marketplace. Ballyrashane has strong liquid milk, butter and cheese lines. The Champion liquid milk and yoghurt brand is synonymous with Town of Monaghan while our Leckpatrick milk powders are amongst the most sought after on the African market”, he said.

“It has been my experience that only those businesses with a strong balance sheet will survive the ups and downs of a volatile marketplace. And this is exactly what the new business brings to the table. The ability to simply generate profits is not enough when it comes to long term, commercial survival,” Mr D’Arcy said.

The merger has been welcomed by the Irish Farmers Association. IFA President Eddie Downey, who said it would help to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the dairy sector in the North of the island. “I have no doubt this will benefit dairy farmers on both sides of the border, by strengthening milk processing in the Northern region, by taking out cost and duplication, and by allowing for synergies, he said. Mr Downey said he hoped it would encourage the rest of the industry to examine the efficiency of its structures carefully, as producer milk prices had now reached unsustainable levels, and co-ops needed to arrest the slide.

The Town of Monaghan Agricultural and Co-Operative Dairy Society Ltd opened on May 15th 1901. Ballyrashane had been going for five years at that stage. The Northern Standard of Saturday May 18th 1901 reported how the new Monaghan Co-Operative Creamery had opened on Wednesday last and was devoted altogether to the reception of whole milk which was dispatched to Belfast. There was a great deal of interest excited in the town in connection with the opening, and large numbers visited it during the week, some people being rather astonished that so much machinery was required in connection with the management of milk, which heretofore had seemed so simple in the farm houses…It is to be trusted that the society…will be successful in its efforts to revive this decaying industry in our county. If anything should induce the farmers to support the creameries throughout the county it is the wretched price paid for butter and eggs in Monaghan market last week.

The article is carried in the history of the creamery produced in 2001 to celebrate its centenary by the late John O’Donnell, its former Manager. He took up the position in 1947 and during the course of a long and challenging career, he initiated a number of new departures, including the development of pasteurised milk sales at retail and wholesale level. He became the leader in milk distribution over long distances outside of Dublin. In the book he recalled how the amalgamation of the Clones and Monaghan Societies in 1963 consolidated the future of the new Society, with odern butter-making facilities and packaging lines for home and export.

He pioneered the experiment with plastic sachet milk in Ireland, followed by the elimination of glass milk bottles and the introduction in 1969 of the pint tetrahedron container, later to become a litre size. By the mid-1980s a link was established with Melkunie in the Netherlands to produce under licence their range of “Mona” yogurts and desserts for the Irish market in a new factory at Coolshannagh which opened in 1984. Boxer Barry McGuigan became the successful face of “Champion” milk.

Under the stewardship of Vincent Gilhawley since 1988, Town of Monaghan expanded into Northern Ireland purchasing Strathroy from the Cunningham family and then Leckpatrick from the Kerry Group in 2002, paving the way for this merger with Ballyrashane.