MUSHROOMS CRISIS

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MUSHROOM INDUSTRY ‘IN TURMOIL’ SINCE BREXIT VOTE

IFA SEEKS GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE FOR PRODUCERS

Michael Fisher    Northern Standard  Thursday 29th September p.1

The Irish mushroom industry has been thrown into turmoil since the UK voted to withdraw from the European Union, according to producers. Chief Executive of Monaghan Mushrooms Ronnie Wilson said they were facing a very difficult crisis, partially caused by the change in the rate between the Euro and sterling. The IFA’s mushroom committee chairman Gerry Reilly said €7m worth of exports and 130 jobs had been lost since the Brexit vote in June.

Both men made a presentation on Tuesday to the Oireachtas agriculture committee alongside Micheál McGovern, chair of Monaghan-based Commercial Mushroom Producers (CMP), Lesley Codd of Codd Mushrooms from Tullow, Co Carlow; and Rowena Dwyer, IFA chief economist.

Among the legislators who heard their evidence was Senator Robbie Gallagher from Monaghan (Fianna Fáil). He said it was imperative the government in the forthcoming budget provided the industry with a bridge to get them over this difficult period.

mushyrooms.jpgCurrently, Irish growers produce around 70,000 tonnes of mushrooms, of which 80%, worth €120m at farm gate (double the value of Irish potatoes), is marketed to UK multiples through a network of marketing agents. There are around sixty growers and they employ 3,500 people, most of them in rural Ireland, especially Monaghan. Only four European countries produce more than Ireland.

Mr Reilly told the committee: “Since the UK vote to leave the EU, the mushroom industry in Ireland has been thrown into turmoil, and growers are in loss-making territory, resulting from the sudden and significant weakening of sterling,” he said.

WEAKENING OF STERLING

The weakening of the sterling is having such a damaging effect because the marketing companies that sell Irish mushrooms negotiate their contracts in sterling. In addition, mushroom prices are forward agreed, generally for contract periods of up to twelve months. As they are fixed contracts, mushroom producers cannot renegotiate the price the receive.

MMushrooms.jpgThe immediate difficulty is that contracts have been agreed in sterling, when sterling was at a much stronger position against the Euro. For the first six months of this year, the average exchange rate was £0.78 to €1. This meant a payment of £1 was worth €1.28 to Irish producers. Today, that same pound is worth only €1.16, sterling having weakened by over 13% since the Brexit vote. CMP estimates that €10m will be lost on an annual basis across the CMP farms in the Republic, translating to an average loss per farm of somewhere between €250,000 and €300,000.

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IFA Horticulture Chair Gerry Reilly

Mr Reilly reminded the Oireachtas members: “mushrooms are a perishable product with a relatively short shelf life, produced 52 weeks a year. The ‘best before’ date is five – seven days after harvesting. There is no viable alternative market for such a highly perishable fresh product.

Currently the UK is our only market. We send more than 50 Artic loads to the UK, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Resulting from the closure of the Russian market, mushrooms from eastern Europe, produced at much lower production costs, are now entering the UK retail market and displacing Irish produce.

mushroomwhite.jpgSHORT-TERM SUPPORTS

On behalf of the IFA and CMP, Mr Reilly called on the government to introduce a number of short-term supports:

  1. Immediate payment by the government of the producer organisation (PO) funding due to the CMP (53 producers) for their 2015 programme.
  2. A temporary reduction in the lower rate of employer PRSI (from 8.5% to 4.25%) to be introduced in October’s budget to directly affect employment costs for mushroom producers.
  3. An extension of the tax relief measure for startup companies to existing companies in the mushroom sector. This would be capped at €15,000 per annum, thereby recognising the limitations imposed by State aid rules for the agriculture sector.
  4. No increase in excise rates on agricultural diesel or other road fuels.
  5. Direct support to mushroom producers through CAP market support measures.
  6. Agricultural Diesel – there must be no increase in excise rates for Marked Gas Oil (agricultural diesel). In addition, given the importance of maintaining competitiveness, the IFA would have to question any move by the Government to increase excise rates on other road fuels at this time.

mushroooms.jpgPOLISH PRODUCT

The IFA submission stated that a significant and longer-term market pressure for Irish producers is the foothold that has been gained in the UK retail market by Polish product. This is very worrying as their cost base is only a fraction of ours e.g. their labour rate is 28% of the minimum wage in Ireland.

The dominant power of the retailers and significant food price deflation in fresh produce, has resulted in serious downward price pressure on our mushroom exports, which has now been compounded by the sterling decline.

Mushroom production is highly labour intensive and the threats now faced by the industry could result in significant job losses. It will also impact on the tillage sector, as the mushroom industry is a significant purchaser of wheaten straw and on the poultry sector, as poultry litter is used in mushroom compost.

In the past, a reduction in production or closure of a mushroom business was replaced by increased production from fellow growers. However, market share lost by the Irish mushroom industry as a result of the current crisis will simply be replaced by other European suppliers.

The IFA has met the Minister for Horticulture Andrew Doyle to impress on him the immediate need to take a number of actions to support our mushroom sector in the wake of the light of Brexit and the weakening of sterling. We also note the recent comments by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed acknowledging the particular issues of the mushroom sector, and his commitment to provide support to the sector in the Budget process, Mr Reilly said.

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Ronnie Wilson, CEO Monaghan Mushrooms

A DIFFICULT CRISIS

Ronnie Wilson of Monaghan Mushrooms said the situation now was very different from eight years ago when the industry was expanding and they were able to compete throughout Europe. He said the two problems for producers were retail discounters and food deflation. The concept of cheap food was now politically very acceptable, he told the committee.

“It’s a very difficult situation. If we let the industry go into freefall that really would be a disaster”, he said. We must stop the industry from going into freefall, he emphasised. Already they were not able to supply all their contracts which were mainly with UK multiples. They were currently purchasing product in Poland and Holland to service the UK contracts.

“We can continue to do so for a little while but can’t go on very long”, he said. The first thing they had to ensure was to stop producers closing, because contracts would be under threat if that happened.

Mr Wilson said one measure the government could take that would be very supportive of the industry would cost very little. The industry required flexibility of labour and worked unsociable hours. He wondered if it would be possible to have a permit scheme introduced to bring in harvesters from non-EU countries in eastern Europe and that would be a very advantageous element, in his view. One or two growers had stopped operating because of the currency exchange rate, but there was also an element of some labour difficulties.

The chair of the committee Pat Deering TD told him that was a suggestion they could include in their budget submission as well.

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Senator Robbie Gallagher

EFFECT ON MONAGHAN

Senator Robbie Gallagher from Monaghan (Fianna Fáil) congratulated the mushroom industry representatives on their achievements over the past thirty years. He said they deserved great credit for building up the industry and creating 3500 jobs.

He knew Ronnie Wilson quite well, who he said had been a leading name in the mushroom industry for up to thirty years. He was a very large employer and they were fortunate to have him in County Monaghan. Of the 3500 jobs in the industry, around 1000 are in Monaghan and of those up to half were employed by Mr Wilson.

So it was a particularly difficult issue for a county like Monaghan. No other county was more exposed to this crisis than Monaghan, he said. Senator Gallagher told the committee he was sure this was a particularly stressful time for everybody in the industry, when external factors over which they had very little control could determine the future. “I can only imagine what you and everybody in the industry is going through”, he told the committee.

Words like ‘crisis’ and ‘freefall’ had been used in the presentation and it was clear to see that they were not being overused. Senator Gallagher said it was imperative that the government stepped in at this time to give the mushroom producers a bridge to get over this difficult period and to reasses where they were going.

It seemed to him that there were two main issues, namely the current threat from the fluctuation of sterling and the threat from Polish producers. The Irish producers seemed to have more concern about the first threat, he said, judging by their presentation. He wondered where they saw the industry going in future and were they confident about it? In view of the freefall in the industry he also wondered if they had had any contact with any government department in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum in the UK.

SIEGE OF JADOTVILLE

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Poster for The Siege of Jadotville Netflix film starring Jamie Dornan

Michael Fisher

The launch of the Netflix film “The Siege of Jadotville” last week marked the 55th anniversary of an important event in Irish military history. The bravery of the unit involved, ‘A’ company, 35th Battalion which was serving on United Nations peacekeeping duties in the Congo, has only now been acknowledged by the authorities.

Over the years, this group of men under the leadership of Commandant Patrick Quinlan was never given proper recognition for the courage they showed in Jadotville. The Irish soldiers resisted the secessionist Katangese forces for six days as they waited for reinforcements to reach them, but had to surrender after their supplies were exhausted. The men were then taken as prisoners of war for close to a month, but none of the 155-strong contingent was killed. 

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Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe TD accompanied by Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett presents the unit citation to Sergeant Harry Dixon 35th Infantry Battalion     Pic: Merrionstreet.ie

Last Saturday 17th September the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe T.D. hosted an event at Custume Barracks, Athlone marking the collective actions of the men of ‘A’ Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and its attachments at the Siege. The Minister presented a unit citation to the Company in recognition of their bravery and heroism. A copy of the citation was presented to each member or next-of-kin of the unit. This was the first time a unit citation had been awarded within the Irish Defence Forces. In marking this unique occasion, Minister Kehoe also commissioned an insignia recognising the professional performance of the men of ‘A’ company.

Speaking at the event the Minister said: “I am very pleased to present this Unit Citation which recognises the bravery and courage of ‘A’ Company during the Siege of Jadotville whilst cut-off from support and reinforcements. The United Nations Operation in Congo was the first peacekeeping mission in which significant numbers of Irish soldiers took part. A total of 6,000 Irish soldiers served in the Congo from 1960 until 1964 and I want to take the opportunity to recall the contribution of all who served in the various Irish contingents over the course of this long Mission.”

The Minister concluded by saying “Ireland can be justifiably proud of all our brave men and women who have contributed to the cause of peace and security. Our continued participation in United Nations missions illustrates the very positive and practical difference that small countries, like Ireland, can make in the world’s trouble spots.”

Jadotville was an event that occurred during Ireland’s peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961. ‘A’ Company of the 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on the 3rd of September. On the 9th of September they were surrounded by a large force supporting the breakaway province of Katanga. Early on the morning of the 13th September the Company came under attack from this force. Over the coming days until 17th September they endured almost continuous attacks from ground and air.

Despite their courageous resistance and the sustained efforts of 35 Infantry Battalion HQ to provide assistance, ‘A’ Company was taken into captivity on 17th September. By this time ‘A’ Company had no water and several men had been wounded. ‘A’ Company remained in captivity until finally released on 25th October 1961.

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Group of Jadotville Soldiers Picture: RTE

The men of ‘A’ Company were drawn mostly from Custume Barracks, Athlone and what was the Western Command. The Citation is as follows:-

UNIT CITATION AWARDED TO ‘A’ COMPANY, 35TH INFANTRY BATTALION

“This Citation recognises the leadership, courage, bravery and professional performance of “A” Company 35th Infantry Battalion and its attachments who, under challenging circumstances at Jadotville, while besieged by overwhelming numbers of Katanganese Gendarmerie and cut-off from support and reinforcements, did valiantly defend their position from the 13th September 1961 to 17th September 1961.”

IRISH JOURNALISTS VISIT THE SOLDIERS HELD PRISONER IN JADOTVILLE

My father the late Desmond Fisher was one of three leading Irish journalists who managed to visit the soldiers when they were held prisoners. He was accompanied on the trip by Raymond ‘Congo’ Smith from the Irish Independent and John Ross from RTE. In the accompanying article my father does not admit that he was the person who was driving the hired car that failed to stop at a gendarmerie checkpoint, but luckily they all survived to tell the tale. Nor does he mention what apparently became of the ballot papers that the journalists brought with them to hand out to the troops, who were experiencing a shortage of modern domestic essentials in their confinement. The story ends with my father’s memory of the soldiers cheering them after their one-hour visit and singing as the reporters departed: “It’s a long way to Tipperary…”

The Irish Press October 2nd 961 p.1

AN 80 M.P.H. DASH TO CAMP . . .AND THE PRISONERS CHEERED

I meet the men of Jadotville siege

(From Desmond Fisher)

JADOTVILLE, Sunday —- Today I became one of the first Irishmen since the fighting in Katanga to drive down the famous Jadotville Road, across the Lufira Bridge — which two relief columns could not pass — into the town itself to meet the 181 Irish prisoners there. The outstanding impression from our visit was that all the boys were in the best form and delighted to get the bag of mail we brought to them.

Special permission for our trip was given by President Tshombe. General Muke, head of the Katangese gendarmerie, provided an escort of a gendarmerie adjutant and a paracommando officer to ensure our safe conduct.

 Our trip had minor historic significance — with us we brought ballot papers which, if inevitable Congolese differences are straightened out in time, may enable the prisoners to vote in the General Election.

The ballot papers arrived by air from Leopoldville (a) half hour before we left. They were handed over to us at a heavily-guarded Indian roadblock outside Elizabethville by Lt.-Col. Jock Casserley, who was accompanied by Col. McNamee, O.C. of the 35th.

 The trip began at gendarmerie headquarters in Avenue de La Reine, Elizabethville, where we picked up the escort. For eighty miles we drove at eighty miles an hour in a large hired American car which, after crashing through a gendarmerie roadblock, we discovered had no brakes. By the time we had pulled up on the dead straight road the gendarmerie were out of sight and the paracommando with us laughed — and waved us on.

But we made sure to pull up at Lafira Bridge, where a strong guard and roadblocks were still maintained round the clock. We got out of the car to inspect the bridge, which has now gone into Irish history, on account of the two gallant rescue efforts to relieve the Jadotville garrison.

It was very easy to see why the rescue columns could not get through. Steep banks lead down to muddy waters and on both sides of the river is swampy ground. Upstream, about fifty yards, is the wreck of a concrete bridge blown up during the fighting.

Warning call

Clambering down the embankment to get a closer view of the bridge, we clutched for support to a strong yellow cable. Gendarmerie called out a warning that the cable was a trip-wire for the mined bridge.

On arrival at the sunbaked mining town of Jadotville, fuller of soldiers than of miners, and with boarded sidewalks closely

To page 3

The Jadotville story (p.3)

From page 1

resembling the scene for a Western film, we drove to gendarmerie headquarters. Here there was more red tape for an hour, while we drank ice-cold Simba beer and gave diplomatic pats to a naked toddler tumbling on the dusty floor of the guardroom.

In true Congolese manner the Colonel in charge demonstrated authority, but a hesitant mention of President Tshombe, whose picture hung on the wall (as on every wall) proved an open sesame.

On the steps

Finally we reached the camp, not the prison camp, but a hotel in the middle of the town which was ringed off with barbed wire and blocks across the road. Across the street from the hotel, sitting at tables in a pavement café, were Katangese gendarmerie, while others were at the road blocks.

There, sitting on the steps of the verandah of the hotel, were the Irish prisoners. When they saw us they could hardly believe we were Irish too. Then we greeted them and they were all around us, smiling and laughing.

Soon we were swapping news — we giving them the latest from the free world while they told us about their heroic four-day stand and how they felt about being prisoners. On one point they reassured us — and through us the people at home — that they are being treated very well indeed.

Best of food

They get the best of food. They also get a fry for breakfast and also have a light lunch and a good dinner. On the menu is meat, soup, cheese, vegetables, fruit and jam.

The gendarmerie do the shopping for them in the town. While it is true that they are confined to the hotel, the building is large and airy. They do physical exercises on the roof and “play games of cards, chess and so on”.

The chaplain, Father Fagan, said: “The boys also do a lot of praying”.

Co-operation

The uppermost thought in everyman’s mind is — “when will I be free?” We were able to assure them that the peace talks are going well and that there should be good news for them soon. Our own observation showed us what seemed to be genuine co-operation between the Irish prisoners and the gendarmerie.

The spirit of goodwill between the Katangans and the Irish prisoners was expressed to us in another way by our guard on the way home. “Irish, our friends,” he said. “During the fighting we could have wiped them out altogether but we bore them no (ill-will)”.

The only civilian in the camp is the interpreter with the 35th Battalion, Mike Nolan. He is a great help to the prisoners because he understands French, Swahili and other African dialects.

Heroic stand

The medical officer, Commandant J.J. Clune, said that he examined all the men and they were in the best of form. The wounded were not seriously injured and they were all responding well to treatment.

The men crowded round us for the full hour we were allowed to stay there, telling us about themselves, recording interviews and being photographed for papers, television and army records.

Of the many battles in which the Irish distinguished themselves in the Katanga fighting, none was more heroic in the face of overwhelming odds than the Jadotville garrison, and we can bear this out after our visit here.  (NOTE THIS PARAGRAPH IN PARTICULAR)

Most of the men were at Mass and those manning trenches found their positions there being rushed, and the shooting started.

4-day attacks

Commandant Quinlan thought at first that it was a local incident and told the men not to use maximum fire, though they could have mown down the gendarmerie who were moving up. For four days the Irish were under heavy attack.

First came heavy mortar barrage and Irish mortar replied with good effect. As positions spread out, Commandant Quinlan decided to withdraw after dark to stronger positions astride the main road about a mile from the town.

The men holding the forward positions fought with great courage under fire while new positions were being dug. All the troops fell back safely to the new strong positions, but they were completely surrounded on all sides. It is estimated that the gendarmerie had 3,000 in the area.

Jet attacks

The Irish were being fire at from the front, rear and sides. They had laid in water supplies when the fighting started but this became putrid. They could not leave the trenches during those four days of fierce fighting.

There were flies all over the place. The jet plane joined in the attacks and bombs fell very near the trenches where the Irish were. The jet also machine-gunned them. The Irish fired back with small arms and the jet did not come in as low afterwards.

More jet attacks followed on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday and there was also heavy mortar fire. Propaganda warfare too.

‘Indigestion’

A man purporting to be from the Red Cross rang up the Irish to say that tribesmen were coming in to attack them and would eat them. Commandant Quinlan replied “If you come and try and eat us, we will give you indigestion.”

Commandant Quinlan warned too that if there were any more mob attacks the Irish would mow them down mercilessly. Convoys were heard at night moving on to Lufira Bridge to meet the breakthrough attempt by the first relief column.

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Commandant Pat Quinlan, Commanding Officer ‘A’ Coy 35 Inf Bn

Commandant Quinlan told me of the ceasefire arranged on Saturday evening, a condition that the jet would be grounded and that the men would get water and hold their positions.

But the jet came over again on Sunday morning and the water was still not turned on. Commandant Quinlan protested about the jet and he was assured it would not happen again.

Delaying game

After the big breakthrough attempt at Lufira Bridge had been repulsed on Saturday — and Irish and Indians withdrew to Elizabethville — Katangans pulled back paracommando elite troops from the bridge to Jadotville for an all-out final attack on the Irish.

Gendarmeries were now infiltrating Irish positions on all sides and a big force was massed.

“My men were now utterly exhausted,” Commandant Quinlan said. On Sunday, he said, they played a delaying game, holding out for a ceasefire and hoping against hope that reinforcements would get through.

“When I finally realised there was no hope of relief and that if I continued the fight all my men would be massacred by vastly superior forces, I decided to save the lives of the men by parleying with Munongo, Minister of the Interior, who arrived in the late afternoon,” said Commandant Quinlan.

Signed terms

The terms signed by Commandant Quinlan were as follows “I, Commandant Patrick Quinlan, Officer Commanding Irish United Nations Troops in Jadotville, do hereby agree to the terms of surrender of Minister Munongo because the Irish force is here on a peaceful police role and any further action would result in the loss of African and Irish lives.

“I also wish to state that my troops fought only in self-defence having been fired on while attending Mass on the morning of 13th September 1961. It is also agreed that the Irish troops will have their arms stored.”

Thus ended the glorious stand which would otherwise have surely resulted in heavy loss of life on the Irish side.

As we left Jadotville after the short hour with the prisoners they gave us three rousing cheers and sang cheerfully, though rather wistfully, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”

DIAGEO CHAMPION DAIRY COW

BaileysCow.jpegBEST DAIRY COW IS FROM WEXFORD

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys T.D. hands over the Virginia Milk Products Cup for the Diageo Baileys Champion All Ireland Cow at the 75th Virginia Show. The top prize of €2500 went to Hallow Advent Twizzle 3, from the Holstein herd owned by Philip and Linda Jones from Killowen, Gorey, Co. Wexford.

‘LIGHTNING’ STRUCK BY SUSPENSION

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Christina McMahon was given a warm reception in Carrickmacross last year after her WBC interim bantamweight title win  Pic. Michael Fisher

CHRISTINA MCMAHON SUSPENDED BY BOXING REGULATOR

Michael Fisher    Northern Standard  Thursday 25th August 2016 p.5

Carrickmacross boxer ‘Lightning’ Christina McMahon has been suspended by the World Boxing Council after she gave interviews about a number of concerns she had before, during and after her WBC super flyweight title challenge against Zulina Munoz in Mexico in March. She was controversially defeated by Munoz on points. Her husband and manager Frick recently revealed evidence of what he claims was glove tampering and improper anti-doping procedures in addition to dubious scorecards.

Christina McMahon still ranks as the WBC interim World Bantamweight Champion received a Facebook message yesterday (Wednesday) from the Chair of the WBC Female Championship Committee Malte Müller-Michaelis informing her of her suspension in the wake of revelations to a number of media outlets which cast serious doubt over the result of the fight in Juarez. She made her comments during the Olympic Games in Rio, when an Irish boxer Michael Conlan was judged to have been beaten by a Russian opponent.

TYDAVNET SHOW #65

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Programme Cover for Tydavnet Show designed by Aoibhe Genoe, Magherarney NS

ANOTHER FUN DAY AT TYDAVNET SHOW

 Michael Fisher  Northern Standard Thursday 25th August 2016 p.19

The weather wasn’t the best but those who made it to Tydavnet Show to celebrate its 65th year found plenty to entertain them. For those with entries in the various classes including home industries there was intense but friendly competition, with plenty of silverware handed out to the winners.

It was an early start at the Drumshevra showgrounds for the 100 or so stewards who help every year to make this an important day in the calendar for the rural community of North Monaghan and further afield. From 9am the site began to fill with early arrivals for the livestock classes and the horses.

Following heavy rainfalls on Friday, the sportsman jumping which would have been the first event had to be cancelled because of the ground conditions. With a close eye continuing to be kept on the weather, the show went on and the only other casualty for safety reasons was the last event, Tydavnet’s Fittest Family.

Throughout the day people continued to come through the gates, young and old and many in-between. A heavy shower of rain at lunchtime probably had an impact on the numbers and created muddy conditions on many of the paths in the fields. However that did not stop the crowd from enjoying the show.

There was dancing on the deck to the Queen of Country, Philomena Begley from Pomeroy in County Tyrone. Her repertoire included “Blanket on the Ground”, with which she enjoyed chart success. Philomena was accompanied by up-and-coming country star, Cliona Hagan from Ballinderry. She soon had the crowd jiving and swinging along with the music.

This year’s Show President is Patricia Hughes and Mary Sherry is Vice President. The Chairperson is Peggy Treanor and Seamus Sherry, a former President, is Vice Chairman.

Peggy Treanor thanked all the sponsors, exhibitors, advertisers, trade stands, veterinary surgeons and land owners who supported the show every year. She extended thanks to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the year to make it such a successful event.

Suzanne Graham from Tirnamona, Ballinode, is the Show Secretary, who has responsibility for processing all the entries. She is assisted by three others, Carmel Meehan and Patricia Hughes, along with Catherine O’Donoghue and Annette O’Donoghue from Tydavnet. Catherine’s involvement in running the Show goes back some fifty years to the time when she helped her parents at the event when she was only 10 years old.

Another volunteer for many years is the Treasurer, George McCarron from Carrickaderry, Clontibret. He served as President for two years, as Chair for eight years and has been sixteen years in the role of Treasurer. He is assisted by Heather Stirrat from Ballinode.

The chief safety officer is Gerard Meehan and publicity is the responsibility of Barry Sherry and Gerard Sherlock, along with a team handling social media to promote the event: Claire Daly, Suzanne Graham and Conor McCarra.

Tydavnet Parish Show is affiliated to the Irish Shows Association, Co. Monaghan Community Network, and is linked to Armagh County Agricultural Show.

The Parish Priest of Tydavnet Reverend Brian Early is a patron of the show along with Canon Ian Berry of the Church of Ireland and Ballyalbany Presbyterian Minister Reverend Stephen McNie, along with the two Bishops of Clogher, Most Reverend Liam Mac Daid and Right Reverend John McDowell. Fr Early was among the visitors to the show during Saturday afternoon.

This year saw the revival of the Tydavnet Show Queen. After an absence of some thirty years, the committee decided to run a competition to select a 2016 Show Queen. Six ladies came forward for selection and the winner was a local lady, Sinead McCarey, representing McMahons Shop, Scotstown.

Sinead has a strong agricultural background and has already attended many functions as part of her duties. The committee expressed their thanks to Sinead for her contribution and wearing the Tydavnet Show Queen sash and tiara with pride.

Sinead accompanied one of the oldest residents in the parish, Pat McArdle (who recently celebrated his 90th birthday) in cutting a tape and formally declaring the show open. They were joined by Pat’s wife Nora at the display of threshing by Monaghan Veteran and Vintage Club. Norah McArdle is another of the volunteers who helps ensure the show runs smoothly and assists at the dog show and in one of the marquees.

The chief steward in the beef section is Henry Blackburn from Drumgoask, Monaghan. He won first prize in the category for a non-pedigree suckler cow with calf at foot and came second in another class for non-pedigree beef male or female over one year old.

Henry told me he had become involved with the show at the age of fourteen, when he was working at Pattons in Monaghan. He was asked to be a steward at the show and has been helping out ever since.

This year there was another fine display in the poultry section. The overall champion prize went to a Kraienkoeppe hen entered by Ryan McLaren from Dromore in County Down. The breed originates in the border region between Germany and the Netherlands. The birds have an upright stance, long back, strong head and are very fully feathered in the hackle and saddle. The walnut comb and wattles are quite small.

According to one of the judges, “Ryan knows his stuff” and he praised the great presentation of the bird. The teenage farmer started selling eggs from his own chickens when he was six. He rears bantams, silkies and cockerels for competition at agricultural shows and has competed before at Tydavnet. Michael Sherlock from Roslea won the overall reserve champion prize for a duck.

The “Taste of Tydavnet” marquee sponsored by McMahon Centra of Scotstown was popular and featured various stalls relating to home produce and health. Pollock’s homemade pickles and preserves from Cornamundy had a variety of jars for sale. Among the visitors was Francis Meehan from Ardaghy who has been coming to the show for the past 25 years but did not bring his bike this year because of the weather.

Meanwhile Squealing Pig chef Adrian Hackett was busy giving cookery demonstrations. Next week’s issue will feature photos of the cup winners and from the home industries section of the show

NEW DEPARTMENT SIGNAGE 

Office of the Minister for Arts Heritage Regional Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs at Kildare Street in Dublin

NEW RURAL DEPARTMENT SIGNS ON THE WAY

Bilingual nameplates will reflect new portfolio for Minister Humphreys

Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Thursday 18th August 2016

Last month the new portfolio for Minister Heather Humphreys was confirmed by An Taoiseach. The Cavan/Monaghan Deputy is now in charge of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

This reflects her new responsibility for developing an action plan for rural Ireland including the roll-out of broadband to all rural areas. But several weeks after the announcement the signs at the various offices of the Department have still to be changed.
On July 5th An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD signed a Statutory Instrument order No. 357/2016 – Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Alteration of Name of Department and Title of Minister). Notice of the making of this Statutory Instrument was published in “Iris Oifigiúil” of 12th July 2016.
“The Government, in exercise of the powers conferred on them by section 6 (1) of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1939 (No. 36 of 1939), hereby order as follows:
1. (1) This Order may be cited as the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Alteration of Name of Department and Title of Minister) Order 2016.
(2) This Order comes into operation on 7 July 2016.
2. The name of the Department of State, the present name of which is, in the Irish language, an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta and, in the English language, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is altered, in the Irish language, to that of an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gnóthaí Réigiúnacha, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta and, in the English language, to that of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
3. The title of the Minister having charge of the Department of State, whose present title is, in the Irish language, an tAire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta and, in the English language, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is altered, in the Irish language, to that of an tAire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gnóthaí Réigiúnacha, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta and, in the English language, to that of the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
4. In any enactment or any instrument made under an enactment—
(a) references to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht shall be construed as references to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs;
(b) references to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht shall be construed as references to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.”
Six weeks later at the entrance to the Minister’s office at 23 Kildare Street near Leinster House you will still be greeted by signs in Irish and English proclaiming the ‘Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht”. It’s the same down at The Custom House, where the National Monuments Service is based along with the Built Heritage and Architectural Policy section.
These were once under the wing of the Department of Environment, based at the Custom House. That Department has also been changed and is now the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government headed by Minister Simon Coveney.
The signs for that Department are the old ones and some of them alongside the DAHG ones are in a poor condition with little maintenance of the surrounding area. So perhaps this will be attended to when the new signage is erected.
The matter is in hand. A spokesperson for Minister Humphreys told The Northern Standard that bilingual signage had been ordered for the Department’s buildings and should be in place shortly.

The other locations include offices in Ely Place (Dublin), Galway, Killarney and Wexford. The Department website has already been updated and can be accessed at: ahgrra.gov.ie. 


RURAL RENEWAL

NEW €380,000 FUND TO HELP REVITALISE MONAGHAN TOWNS AND VILLAGES

Minister Humphreys Urges Local Communities to Apply

Michael Fisher   NORTHERN STANDARD   Thursday 11th August 2016 p.1

The government aims to publish a new Action Plan for Rural Ireland by the end of this year. This was revealed during a visit to Clones on Tuesday by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys T.D. She was launching a scheme to assist rural regeneration.

Minister Humphreys announced that her department was making available a fund of €10 million this year to local authorities throughout the state in order to support the renewal of rural towns and villages. An allocation of €380,000 has been set aside for County Monaghan and each of the other 25 counties to go towards projects.
This was by no means a silver bullet to solve all the problems in rural Ireland, but it was a positive start, she said. They would work from the ground up in order to get the best solutions. The Minister said she did not have all the ideas and did not want to be prescriptive about how the funding should be used. She told the Northern Standard it was up to local authorities in conjunction with local groups to sit down and decide the priorities to be tackled, such as derelict buildings. Local people could identify things they needed to make a difference to bring back life to the towns and villages.

The Minister hoped there would be a quick turn-around time for grant approval, with allocations being made before the end of the year. If it brought back people into towns and villages then it would be a success. She said there were many examples of modern day living, with people turning historic sites into accommodation. She wanted to see people living in towns, creating companionship and community spirit.

She said this first tranche of funding under the Town and Village Renewal scheme represented a serious commitment by government to offer support to rural towns and villages. Each county can apply for grants for up to eight separate town or village projects. Minister Humphreys called on local communities and businesses to submit outline plans to her department for approval in September. Up to 200 towns and villages across the country will benefit from the scheme this year.

A particular focus will be placed in 2016 on supporting smaller towns, with populations of less than 5,000. A maximum of two projects can be supported in each county for those towns with a population of up to 10,000. Funding will be allocated to local authorities to meet up to 85% of the total cost of each project.

In County Monaghan, applications for the scheme will be forwarded through the regeneration committees in Clones, Ballybay, Monaghan, and Castleblayney, as well as the Carrickmacross Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the respective Municipal Districts. Funding will be released to local authorities once projects are approved by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The minimum grant for any single project is €20,000 and the maximum is €100,000. The Department says this phase of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme will be reviewed and adapted as necessary for 2017.
Speaking at the restored courthouse building in Clones, the Minister said rural development was a key priority in the Programme for a Partnership Government. Ireland’s towns and villages were at the heart of our rural communities, but the economic downturn had a significant impact on many of them. She said it was incumbent on them (as a government) to help these areas achieve a recovery.

Minister Humphreys went on: “I am launching the Town and Village Renewal Scheme to begin breathing life back into our rural towns and villages. It is critical that towns and villages become areas where economic activity can flourish, where people can live and work, and where people can meet at a social level.”

The Minister continued: “Consultation and collaboration will be key elements of the scheme. It will be administered through the local authorities, which will be required to partner with local businesses and local communities to develop and implement ideas that can make a real and lasting impact in revitalising rural towns and villages.”

She said the scheme was part of the government’s commitment to ensuring that the benefits of economic recovery were felt in every part of the country. The scheme also addresses one of the recommendations in the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas report, published in 2014.

Measures taken under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme should have a sustainable and visible impact on the area in question. The type of project to be funded under the scheme could include measures to:

  • increase the attractiveness of the town or village as a local commercial and social centre, and increase its sustainability as a place in which to live and work;
  • enhance its environment and amenity in the interests of residents, businesses and visitors;
  • enhance the culture and local heritage assets of the town/village and promote tourism;
  • tackle minor physical infrastructural deficits and land assembly issues.

The Minister was welcomed to the town along with other guests by Finbarr Dunwoody of the Clones Chamber of Commerce. The procedures for applying for the fund were outlined by William Parnell, assistant secretary at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, whose brief covers regional development and rural affairs, said the roll-out of rural broadband was a priority and the department was working in conjunction with the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten.

Louise Lennon of Irish Rural Link (an organisation based in Moate, Co. Westmeath) stressed that a good broadband infrastructure was needed. She said the scheme announced by the Minister was a first step in the right direction for the development of rural towns and villages that had been hit by the economic crisis a few years ago. She said it was important to bring facilities back into towns so that younger people could remain there.
Peter Hynes, Chief Executive of Mayo County Council, welcomed the initiative on behalf of the County and City Management Association. He said it showed the importance the government attached to rural Ireland. The local authorities, he said, shared that priority. There were big challenges in the areas of building housing, creating employment and climate change. Balanced regional development and rural regeneration was of critical importance, he added.

Mr Hynes said a key part of that was getting people back into towns and villages. The extent of the challenge was daunting: towns and villages were at the eye of the storm, challenged by the spread of online retailing. He reminded the gathering that it would take time, commitment and resources to tackle the problem, but it could be done. He cited the example of Westport in Co. Mayo where he was appointed town manager in 1996 with a brief for regeneration. Twenty years on, it had been a success. He looked forward to local authorities taking on the challenge so that towns and villages could realise their potential. They would be collaborating with businesses, the department and in particular with local communities to make it happen. This scheme was a big step in the right direction, he said.

Patrick McCarville of the Clones Regeneration Partnership said their committee set up last year would probably concentrate initially on the development of the Fermanagh Street and Diamond area. The town renewal scheme would be another potential source of funding in addition to LEADER.

Mr McCarville said the committee would be meeting at the end of the month to try to identify sites that businesses could do up. But the improvements would not happen overnight and as they heard, had taken some twenty years in Westport. One thing they were not going to do was to attempt to cloak the dereliction by erecting fake shop fronts to give the impression the buildings were occupied, as had been done in Enniskillen during the G8 summit in 2013.

Minister Humphreys told them that Clones with its monastic heritage was a fitting location to launch a scheme that aimed to support the revitalisation of towns and villages all over Ireland. Clones was also a town that had suffered more than most down through the years. Its close proximity to the border during the troubles had a severe impact on economic activity locally and sadly that resulted in a legacy of decline in the town. Unfortunately the scars were there for all to see today.

She went on: “while Fermanagh Street is always a hive of activity and thronged with people on Ulster Final day, the sad reality is that when the crowds move off, we are left with a main street that has far too many vacant premises. That’s a pity because it undermines the good work that is taking place in Clones. And there is an awful lot of good work going on here.”

“You have the superb PEACE Link facility, the recently opened Barry McGuigan Park, the new soccer pitch for Clones Town FC, as well as St Tiarnach’s Park – the home of Ulster GAA and of course a state of the art modern secondary school in Largy College. These are amenities that would be the envy of many towns in the country but unfortunately it’s all about first impressions. And the fact is when you walk on to a main street that has a number of empty and derelict premises, that vital first impression is not good.”

In launching the first phase of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme she said it was critical that town centres – and even small villages – became areas where economic activity was supported and encouraged, where people could visit and enjoy themselves and most importantly where people could live and work with a sense of pride of place.

“I have increased the allocation for the scheme in my department’s vote this year, from €4 million to €10 million, reflecting the government’s commitment to the development of rural Ireland. I want to acknowledge the excellent work which is already being carried out by businesses, communities and local authorities throughout the country to revitalise town centres. There are some fine examples of good practice and I hope that this new scheme will help other towns and villages to replicate and adapt those examples, or develop their own unique solutions to town and village renewal. I am encouraging the local authorities to engage fully with the scheme in order to maximise the benefit for the towns and villages in their area”, the Minister said.

She welcomed the presence at the launch of a number of business people and representatives of local community groups from across Monaghan and Cavan. “You are the people who are best placed to know how we can help your local town. We want your ideas and we want you to work with you. In this regard, consultation and collaboration will be key pre-requisites of the scheme”, she told them.

A project committee, representative of local community and business interests and the local authority, should be established for each project to help design a strategy which should be aligned with broader development plans and opportunities for the area. The most important part of the scheme, however, will be taking practical measures to support the town or village’s social, cultural and economic development, Minister Humphreys said.

She told them that a number of other measures would be announced in the Autumn to support rural development. These would be announced in due course by herself and Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring. The Minister observed that there were many vacant or partially vacant heritage buildings in town centres all over the country which she believed offered real opportunity to bring life back into town centres.

If a real and lasting impact was to be made on the regions and on rural Ireland, then every government department needed to make a meaningful contribution to the effort, whether it was in relation to jobs, education, transport, housing or other economic or social policy area. With that in mind, her department would shortly commence work on an Action Plan for Rural Ireland. It would include clear objectives, with regular and structured progress reports that would be presented to the Cabinet Committee on Regional and Rural Affairs chaired by An Taoiseach. This would ensure co-ordination of the rural agenda across government, the Minister stated.

Included in this process will be the consideration of regional and rural issues in the design of the National Planning Framework. This framework is the follow-up to the National Spatial Strategy and its development will be led by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. The National Planning Framework (NPF) is a Long-term, 20-year National Plan outlining a high level spatial vision for Ireland. It will be the overarching plan from which other regionally and locally based plans will emanate.

The Action Plan format, successfully developed through the Action Plan for Jobs, takes a strategic approach based on implementation. Government departments are given key objectives which they must meet in the context of regional and local priorities.

Chief Executive of Chambers Ireland Ian Talbot said, “We welcome the commitment by Government to invest €10 million into the regeneration of rural towns and villages with the central aim to improve the living and working environment of local communities and support their potential to increase economic activity. We anticipate that this investment will be a positive step to help revitalise rural Ireland. Ireland has a high number of towns and villages with a population less than 10,000. There are 552 villages with a population of less than 100. Many of these towns and villages across Ireland will benefit from the funding announced by the Minister.”

“Consultation and collaboration with local citizens, business owners and Chambers will be vitally important to the success of the projects chosen for investment under this scheme. We encourage local business to engage with other stakeholders and to work closely with the local authority to develop innovative projects that can deliver long term and sustainable economic benefits, not only for the individual town or village but in turn for the wider county and region.”

Mr Talbot also welcomed the government’s commitment to produce an Action Plan for Rural Ireland similar to the Action Plan for Jobs. He said the courthouse restoration in Clones was a testament to what could be done with a small amount of money towards regeneration.

Mairead McGuinness, MEP for Monaghan and Vice-President of the European Parliament encouraged community groups to avail of the immediate opportunity to work with their local authorities to enhance and upgrade their towns and villages under the new scheme. The MEP said it was a good opportunity for those who had projects and ideas ready to activate to put in their applications by September.

“This funding scheme is due for distribution by the end of the year so those with projects already in mind will be in pole position to benefit. There will be further tranches coming down the line during 2017 and beyond. This part of the scheme will assist those with initiatives to help regenerate their towns and villages and give a boost to those working to bring vibrancy and economic recovery back into communities,” she said.

Mairead McGuinness was joined at the launch by local Fine Gael Councillors Sean Gilliland and Ciara McPhillips (Ballybay/Clones MD). Cllr David Maxwell from Monaghan MD was also present.

In a speech last month Minister Humphreys outlined how she was working closely with the Minster for Communications Denis Naughten, to deliver key elements of the National Broadband Plan and to accelerate and prioritise the rollout of the programme in rural areas. The aim is to deliver high speed broadband to every home, school and business by 2020 through a combination of commercial investment and state intervention.

The state will intervene in areas where commercial providers are failing to reach. The Minister said the Department of Communications was continuing to manage the procurement process for the state contract, which was expected to be awarded in summer 2017. In the meantime, her new Department was working with local authorities to eliminate any roadblocks, so as to ensure that towns and villages and rural areas were ready for broadband when the contract was signed.

She said it was difficult to overestimate the challenge they were facing. The broadband blackspots in need of state intervention accounted for 750,000 addresses, and covered 96% of our landmass. This represented about 100,000km of road network, traversing areas which were home to 1.8 million people. “Put simply: it’s a very big job – it’s akin to rural electrification.

But it will be worth the effort, and it will have a transformative effective on rural Ireland. High quality broadband is one of the many tools we can use to empower rural communities. The revitalisation of rural Ireland must be based on sustainable development”, the Minister added.

“We must learn from the mistakes of the past. We are all well versed on the mistakes of the construction bubble, when our young men were recruited and trained in their droves in an industry which was built on sand. The old approach of ‘an IDA factory for every town’ didn’t work either. It was false promise, and one that was generally never fulfilled.”

“Through the implementation of regional jobs plans, the government is encouraging each region to focus on its strengths. By supporting indigenous businesses and linking education with industry, we can give each region the best possible chance of success. Take for example, a business in my own constituency of Cavan-Monaghan.”

“Combilift is a home grown Monaghan success story – a jewel in the crown of Enterprise Ireland. Since it was first started by Martin McVicar and Robert Moffett 18 years ago, the company has grown into a global leader in forklift manufacturing. It now exports to over 75 countries. Last year, Combilift announced major expansion plans and the creation of 200 new jobs.

Crucially, the company has teamed up with Cavan Monaghan Education and Training Board to develop a series of new apprenticeship programmes, to ensure those jobs can be filled by local graduates. It’s a formula that works, and one I want to see replicated nationwide.”

The Minister told the MacGill Summer School in Glenties that sustainable development should also mean national decisions about rural Ireland were not taken in isolation. The report by the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas – published under the last government – looked at how to revitalise rural Ireland. One of its most important findings was the realisation that in order to fully support sustainable rural development there was a critical need for a more integrated approach across all government departments and agencies. “This is not a new concept and indeed much of the relevant sectoral frameworks accept the need for this kind of approach”, she said.

Minister Humphreys added: “this government’s increased commitment to supporting sustainable rural development in an integrated way has already been formalised through its commitments in the Charter for Rural Ireland published earlier this year and the creation of my new portfolio.”