Arlene Foster MLA and Diane Dodds MEP Photo: © Michael Fisher

Arlene Foster MLA and Diane Dodds MEP Photo: © Michael Fisher

Apart from weddings and large-scale social events, Corick House Hotel in Clogher has hardly ever been so packed for a public meeting. Around 250 farmers from the Clogher Valley and Fermanagh attended the second in a series of roadshows on CAP reform, organised by the DUP Member of the European Parliament, Diane Dodds. They had expected around 80 and some latecomers had to sit outside the room to follow the proceedings. One of the first people I met at the hotel was my colleague from the Guild of Agricultural Journalists (Northern Ireland), Brian Donaldson of the Impartial Reporter. Now if only our William Carleton Society summer school in August (which we were planning tonight at Corick) could attract such a crowd this year to the same room…

The MEP was joined by senior DARD officials, who outlined the detail around how the new Common Agricultural Policy will be implemented in Northern Ireland. The meetings will move on to Templepatrick, Portadown and Portrush over the next two weeks and consist of a question and answer session which allows an opportunity for individual concerns to be addressed. One farmer had concerns about the effect of flooding on good farming land caused when waters rose up to fifteen feet in the Colebrooke River. He wondered if it would affect his grant application, if an inspector from the Department came around to check on the extent of his land immediately after the flooding. The answer involved something about force majeure coming into play.

Diane Dodds MEP

Diane Dodds MEP

Announcing the meetings, Diane Dodds said: “As someone who has been heavily involved in the reform of the common agricultural at a European level and one of its greatest critics the outworkings are now reaching farmers on the ground. I have organised in conjunction with DARD, a range of meetings to update and clarify for the implementation of the policy will take effect in Northern Ireland.

“The reform of the common agricultural policy will be the main emphasis for these meetings, given the upcoming single application deadline in May 2015 and ongoing decisions which will ultimately have a lasting impact on the farm business for years to come.

“During the course of the meetings, there will be a presentation on the upcoming requirements of the new CAP scheme, and within this a wide range of topics will be covered, including the basic payment scheme, active farmer definition, eligibility criteria, greening, young farmer and national schemes, cross compliance and the farm business improvement scheme.

Diane Dodds MEP addressing the packed room at Corick House Hotel Photo: © Michael Fisher

Diane Dodds MEP addressing the packed room at Corick House Hotel Photo: © Michael Fisher

“I also recognise that farmers have individual questions and I will ensure that a question and answer session is available. I want to provide an opportunity for farmers to have as much information as possible in a timely fashion to make decisions and prepare for the upcoming changes. DARD has now received clarity and made decisions on the majority of the reformed CAP implementation and have produced guidance. Hence why I feel this is a unique opportunity to gain additional clarity.

“I would strongly urge the farming community to make use of this opportunity, which will help prepare for the single application form in May 2015,” she said.

A farmer asks a question about flooding at the CAP roadshow Photo: © Michael Fisher

A farmer asks a question about flooding at the CAP roadshow Photo: © Michael Fisher

Diane Dodds was joined at the event by her party colleagues Lord Morrow and the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster. The DUP point out that agriculture is the back-bone to much more than the Northern Ireland economy; it is the fabric of local communities. Agri-food is a key driver of the NI economy. It sustains an estimated 100,000 jobs and contributes some £5 billion in sales. It is also a key exporter of produce, with some £2.6 billion in external sales.


Monaghan Ladies Footballer Niamh Kindlon Photo:  © Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Monaghan Ladies Footballer Niamh Kindlon Photo: © Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Monaghan All-Star footballer Niamh Kindlon from Magheracloone is profiled as one of the modern greats of ladies football in next week’s popular GAA documentary series Laochra Gael. It will be broadcast tonight (Tuesday March 3rd) by TG4 at 8pm. A special preview screening took place last Thursday evening at McNally’s bar in Carrickmacross for Niamh, her family and friends. It was attended by the TG4 Ceannaire (Director General) Pól Ó Gallchóir.

Pól Ó Gallchóir, Ceannaire TG4

Pól Ó Gallchóir, Ceannaire TG4

Each of the ten programmes in the new season contains an extended interview with the subject, archive footage of her or his finest hour on the pitch and an assessment from friends, rivals and team-mates.

Niamh started out under the guidance of her father Maurice as an enthusiastic nine year-old with her club Magheracloone and has been a leading light for Monaghan ladies ever since. Aged sixteen and in her first season with the senior team she played a crucial role in the 1997 All-Ireland final. Ten minutes before half-time, Niamh drilled the ball high into the top right-hand corner of the net at the Canal End goal from twenty yards. Michael Ryan, who managed the Waterford ladies, said that “even to this day, it’s the greatest goal I’ve ever seen scored in ladies’ football”.

The following year the two counties clashed once again in two epic All-Irelands after the first final ended in a draw. Unfortunately for Monaghan, Waterford won the second time round but the rivalry set a new standard for ladies football.

Niamh Kindlon on Laochra Gael, TG4

Niamh Kindlon on Laochra Gael, TG4

Niamh captained Monaghan back to Croke Park in 2002 when they took on the cream of the crop from Mayo but the Westerners took the cup home once again, leaving Niamh heartbroken, “There’s bigger things than football but when you’re in that moment it’s very hard to think past it because you’re so upset about it. It’s still hard to put on your boots on again after it”, she reveals. 2003 was no easier for Niamh when she suffered the first of two cruciate injuries but she was determined not to let injury dictate the end of her career. “I didn’t want my cruciate to be the reason I retired from county football.”

Niamh and Monaghan both made the comeback but a new force in Ladies Gaelic had emerged to dominate the game: Cork. Over the following years they defeated Monaghan in three finals 2008, 2011 and 2013. Niamh talks especially about her personal disappointment at not been selected to play a full part in the latter two finals.

While there have been many ups and downs it is clear that Niamh loved every minute since she joined the county team as a teenager and her haul of three League titles, three All Stars and an All-Ireland medal attest to her consistency as one of the leading Ladies’ Gaelic Footballers in recent decades. She has also won several Ulster medals with Monaghan.

Niamh who is now 33 is a plumber by trade. Apart from Gaelic football, her other interests included basketball and for a time, soccer. As well as an extensive interview with Niamh the programme also features interviews with teammate Christina Reilly, Cork’s Juliet Murphy, Dubliner Fiona Ní Chorcoráin and Robbie Ó Grifín

The documentary on Niamh is the fourth of ten in the series, which will also feature Fan & Philly Larkin from Kilkenny, Dublin’s Barney Rock, Brendan Cummins from Tipperary, Michael Duignan from Offaly, Kerry’s Ogie Moran and Ryan McMenamin of Tyrone. Catch the programme every Tuesday at 8pm on TG4, with a repeat broadcast every Sunday evening after GAA BEO. Laochra Gael is produced by Nemeton TV for TG4.




Dympna Kerr and her brother, Oliver McVeigh at the Mass in Carrickroe    Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Dympna Kerr and her brother, Oliver McVeigh at a Mass in Carrickroe, Emyvale, County Monaghan, at which a new appeal was made for information about the location of Columba McVeigh’s remains Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed the Irish government will continue its commitment to help fund the search for the so-called ‘disappeared’. Following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the Irish and British Governments set up the Independent Commission for the Recovery of Victims Remains. Its aim was to locate the remains of those killed by republican paramilitaries and secretly buried during the ‘troubles’ – people commonly referred to as the ‘disappeared’.

RTÉ’s Northern Editor Tommie Gorman in a special Nationwide programme tonight reported on the ongoing work of the Commission, with the remains of six people still to be recovered.

The Commission has a confidential telephone number and post box, and the information it receives can only be used to help recover the dead. In many of the ten cases where remains have been found, republicans and/or others used these facilities to provide crucial information.

Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality  Photo: Fine Gael

Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality Photo: Fine Gael

With a search for one of the six still missing, Belfast-born Joe Lynskey, due to begin in County Meath this month, the Minister for Justice has confirmed the Irish government’s ongoing commitment to help fund the work. Frances Fitzgerald said the government remained as strongly committed now to the humanitarian aim of locating the victims for their families as at the outset of the process, and would continue to support the ongoing efforts to locate those victims who have yet to be found. The Minister said she would encourage anyone with information that could help to locate those still missing to give that information, in full confidence, to the ICLVR without delay. “The families of the missing victims have suffered enough.  Out of common human decency, I appeal to anyone who can help bring an end to that suffering to do so”, she said.

Of the six people still missing, five are thought to be buried south of the Irish border and a sixth, Seamus Ruddy, is believed to be buried in a forest in France. The INLA admitted killing Seamus Ruddy.  The five other deaths are attributed to the IRA. The remaining ‘Disappeared’

In February 2010 Joe Lynskey was added to the official list of the disappeared. He was a member of the IRA. He went missing from his west Belfast home during the summer of 1972; his body has never been recovered. Joseph Lynskey was a former Cistercian monk from the Beechmount area of west Belfast. A new search for his remains is due to begin in Co Meath later this month.

Columba McVeigh  Photo: Irish Times

                                                                    Columba McVeigh Photo: Irish Times

Columba McVeigh disappeared on November 1st 1975 and his body has never been recovered. He was from Donaghmore, County Tyrone. He had been working as a painter in Dublin and had only returned to the North a few days earlier. Although extensive searches, based on information received, have been carried out at Bragan Bog near Emyvale in North Monaghan, his remains have not yet been discovered.

Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright disappeared on 2 October 1972. The two of them were from Belfast – Seamus Wright worked as an asphalt layer.  He was aged 25 and married when he went missing. It is thought they were both members of the IRA and were suspected of passing on information to the security forces. The Commission has carried out extensive but unsuccessful searches in the Coghalstown area of Co Meath for the remains of the men.

Captain Robert Nairac disappeared in 1977.  He was an officer with the British Army’s Grenadier Guards on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland when he went missing. It’s thought he was on an intelligence-gathering operation and was singing republican songs at a pub in Silverbridge, South Armagh, on the night of his abduction.  He was 29.  A man was convicted of his murder in 1977 and served a prison sentence. Captain Nairac received a posthumous George Cross.

Seamus Ruddy disappeared in Paris on 9 May 1985. A native of Newry, he had links to the INLA and its political wing, the IRSP.  He was involved in negotiations on behalf of INLA prisoners in the MAZE during the 1981 Hunger Strikes and helped to carry the coffin of hunger striker, Michael Devine, at his funeral in Derry.  In May 1985 he was working as an English teacher in Paris.  It is thought he got into a dispute with INLA members who were attempting to procure weapons in France. . In December 1995 the INLA admitted responsibility for his death. In February 1999 information emerged to suggest that his body was buried in Rouen, France, but despite searches having been carried out his remains have not yet been recovered.

It is believed that information provided by republicans and/or others assisted in eight of the ten cases where remains were recovered.  With Jean Mc Conville (2003) and Eugene Simons (1984), the discoveries were made by chance.

Brendan Megraw was 23-years-old when he was taken from his flat in Twinbrook, west Belfast by the IRA in April 1978.  His wife was expecting their first child at the time. His remains were recovered at Oristown Bog, near Kells in County Meath in autumn 2014.

Peter Wilson was 21 when he went missing in West Belfast in 1973.  Described as a vulnerable person with learning difficulties, his remains were located at Waterfoot beach in County Antrim in November 2010.

Gerard Evans from Crossmaglen in South Armagh was last seen hitch-hiking in County Monaghan in March 1979. In March 2008 his aunt received a map, claiming to identify the location of his remains.  They were eventually recovered from the site near Hackballscross in County Louth in October 2010.

Charlie Armstrong was a 54-year-old father of five who had no connections with paramilitary organisations.  He went missing one Sunday morning in 1981 when he left his Crossmaglen home to collect a neighbour to go to Mass.  His remains were located in a County Monaghan bog in 2010, 29 years after his abduction.

Danny McIlhone went missing from his West Belfast home in 1981.  His remains were found in the Wicklow mountains in November 2008 – two earier, unsuccessful searches were carried out in the area.

Jean McConville was a widowed mother of ten, she was taken from her Belfast flat by the IRA in 1972.  A man out walking on Shelling Beach near Carlingford in County Louth found her remains in August 2003.

Eamon Molloy was abducted from his home in North Belfast in 1975. His body was discovered in a coffin left in Faughart graveyard, close to the border, near Dundalk in 1999.

Brian McKinney was aged 22 when he went missing in Belfast in 1978. His remains were located in a Co Monaghan bog in 1999.

John McClory was aged 17 when he went missing with his friend, Brian McKinney in Belfast in 1978. Their remains were found in the same area of Co Monaghan bogland 21 years later.

Eugene Simons was a 26 year old who went missing form his home near Castlewellan in Co Down in January 1981.  His body was discovered by chance in May 1984 in a bog near Dundalk, Co Louth.


John Horgan  Photo: DCU

John Horgan Photo: DCU

Desmond Fisher – an appreciation by John Horgan 

Desmond Fisher, who died in December aged 94, was a journalist who was undoubtedly less well known than he deserved to be, but whose contribution to religious journalism in English in the twentieth century was in many senses significant. It spanned an era when Catholicism in particular was undergoing seismic changes – changes which he witnessed, and documented for a wide variety of media, with consummate professionalism, balance and a deep commitment to his own religious faith.

He never courted personal publicity, and of course he contributed much of his work in print rather than in broadcasting, and in another era – one in which Twitter and Facebook were unknown, and television was only coming of age. When he joined RTE as Deputy Head of News in 1967 – almost half a century ago – he had already had a stellar career in print journalism, of which most of RTE’s Young Turks in the 1960s would have been blissfully ignorant.

Doctrine and Life: February Issue

Doctrine and Life: February Issue

Almost two decades in journalism, most significantly as London Editor of the Irish Press Group, meant that he was, metaphorically, at the top of his game when he was approached in 1962 with an invitation to become editor of the Catholic Herald in London, possibly because his reports from Rome for the Irish Press on the first session of Vatican 2 had marked him out as that rarity – a newsman who understood, and could write fluently about, the epochal changes that were just beginning to impact on global Catholicism.

Catholicism in Britain was then, and remained for many years, something of a hybrid. Its membership ran from the aristocratic Duke of Norfolk to the working class masses of Irish origin who populated the great British industrial cities. His predecessor, Michael de la Bedoyère, was a Stonyhurst-educated scion of the former class, a somewhat languid intellectual who had been in post for almost three decades. Under his editorship the paper once printed its major leading article with a final editorial sentence reading: “Cut here – the rest is tripe.”
This may not have been a hanging offence, but the writing was on the wall in any case for other reasons, mainly because the English Catholic bishops found him too liberal, and the proprietors clearly wanted an editor more open to clerical orthodoxy, and to the large potential readership who were largely readers of the rival, and much more down-market, Universe. In the event, Des Fisher initially did not disappoint. He welcomed the opportunities offered by the Council with gusto, and his reports from Rome between then and 1966 not only burnished his reputation, but earned him the respect and friendship of a wide circle of international journalists – Henri Fesquet of Le Monde, Raniero La Valle of L’Avvenire, Jerszy Turowicz of Tygodnik Powszechn in Poland, Bob Hoyt of the National Catholic Reporter, and Bob Kaiser of Time magazine – as well as the trust and confidence of the kaleidoscopic collection of bishops, theologians, and others, clerical and lay, Protestant, Catholic and agnostic who descended on Rome en masse every autumn to watch, and participate, in that great event.

Douglas Woodruff, then editor of the Tablet, warned Des in a Roman restaurant just before the Council began that it was always dangerous to underestimate the Curia, whose motto was Qui pensiamo in seculi – here we think in centuries. It was a warning Des was happy to ignore even when – as events were to demonstrate – it was to his career disadvantage. His own post-Conciliar book, “The Church in Transition,” was typically modest and low-key. He was never one of those people who, in the memorable Irish phrase, had “a great welcome for himself,” but he could tap into the zeitgeist with the confidence and competence of a true professional.

Desmond Fisher

Desmond Fisher

Des’s tenure as editor of the Catholic Herald was marked not only by his professional expertise and dyed-in-the-wool fair-mindedness, but also by his courage. When the English theologian Charles Davis, one of the most progressive and prophetic voices of his generation, decided to leave the ministry –and ultimately to marry – it was Des who befriended him and sheltered him in his house in Wimbledon while the British tabloid press hunted him like a wild animal. He as courageous, too, in his unwillingness to cut his cloth by anyone else’s measure: this was to be tested when he discovered that his honeymoon as editor of the Catholic Herald was always subject to the whims of the English hierarchy. A number of bishops, Irish as well as English, disapproved of the tenor of his reports, and the Catholic Herald was banned in some parishes. All this was undoubtedly a key factor in a decline in its circulation, which strengthened the hands of his critics. Both the main owner of the Catholic Herald, Vernor Miles, and Cardinal Heenan, archbishop of Westminster, were deeply disturbed by the tenor of Des’s reporting and Miles arranged to have him recalled from Rome on the manifestly inaccurate grounds that the bulk of the Council’s work was over. Three months later he resigned, citing “policy differences with the Board.” His departure occasioned personal letters of regret from, among many others, Abbot Christopher Butler of Downside, the theologian Fr. Hubert Richards, and Archbishop Denis Hurley of Durban.

In Des’s case, however, it was – as ever – a case of reculer pour mieux sauter. With a courage rarely displayed by someone of his years, and with a young family to support, he took to free-lance journalism. He wrote a weekly column for the Anglican Church Times, and wrote exclusively on Catholic affairs for the National Catholic reporter and the St. Louis Review in the United States, as well as contributing to Commonweal, the Tablet, Doctrine and Life, and the Furrow, among many other publications. He might have become editor of Hibernia in Dublin if it had managed to attract new investment capital, and both Herder Correspondenz, and a Canadian Catholic weekly, were keenly interested in securing his services, before he was head-hunted by Jim McGuinness (an old acquaintance from Irish Press days) to take up a senior position at RTE. Like many a journalist, he was not really an organization man, and managed to escape the RTE bureaucracy from time to time to write about his interests in religion, in Irish media generally, and in the right to communicate. He was reminiscing in the Irish Times about Vatican 11 a half-century after it had ended, and had just finished, before his death, an annotated translation of the Stabat Mater, which is due for publication later this year.

He was, in a sense, a fine embodiment of that element of the populus Dei to which he would refer wryly from time to time, and which is, in these troubled but fascinating days, needed more than ever: the Church’s loyal opposition. It was not a concept with which the hierarchs he met ever really felt comfortable; but it is an apt description of the role he and many others played in those wondrous times – times which may, with luck, come again.


Postscript: I should declare an interest. I first met Des in London in his Irish Press office early in 1962, on the basis of an introduction from the editor of the Evening Press in Dublin, for which I had briefly worked. I was newly married, and unemployed, and expected little more than a few stern words of warning about the impossibility of getting into Fleet Street. The conversation turned – without my realising it – into a job interview, and at the end of it he offered me a job on the Herald when he moved there at the end of the month. Although I left the Herald after less than two years to join the Irish Times in Dublin, the training and encouragement I got from him in that small, busy office was to stand me in good stead for the rest of my professional life. Some of the information in this appreciation has been garnered, with his family’s permission, from a memoir of his own professional life which he wrote before his death and which is now, together with the rest of his papers, destined for the Media History Archive at Dublin City University, to which he bequeathed it.  John Horgan  21 January 2015


The family of the late Desmond Fisher would like to thank all those who sent messages or letters of sympathy or Mass cards following his death on December 30th and helped them in their bereavement. Also to those who posted online. Thanks to everyone for your support during a time of grief. I will post more news about his 200-page book Stabat Mater nearer the time of publication: today was spent going through the second proofs and checking for any further corrections. Michael Fisher.


Corduff Pipe Band Big Drum Photo: © Michael Fisher

Corduff Pipe Band Big Drum Photo: © Michael Fisher

It was a great night out tonight for the members of Corduff Pipe Band near Carrickmacross in County Monaghan, along with their families and supporters. Over 100 gathered for a dinner at Corduff/Raferagh community centre, where the band practises every Thursday night at 8pm.

Corduff Pipe Band Big Drum Photo: © Michael Fisher

Corduff Pipe Band Big Drum Photo: © Michael Fisher

It’s a modern community hall, with a social club attached (The Mountain Dew), that was officially opened by President McAleese in December 2005.

Corduff Pipe Band Big Drum Photo: © Michael Fisher

Corduff Pipe Band set of Bagpipes Photo: © Michael Fisher

The band are the current All-Ireland champions in the annual Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, organised by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, having won the title in Sligo in 2014 and the previous year in Derry. Tonight they were presenting medals and certificates to around thirty band members. In at least two cases, there are three generations of the same family playing in the band.

The oldest member is eighty: President of the Band Patsy Finnegan. The youngest is eight years old, son of pipe major Sean Finnegan, whose father James is a drummer in the band. The band regularly appears at GAA County finals to entertain the crowd during the breaks.

The band was formed in 1917 as the Thomas Ashe Pipe Band. They won an All-Ireland title in 1973 and arising from it received an invitation to London to participate in the St Patrick’s Day parade in 1974 and to play in a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, one of the many memories Patsy Finnegan has. When he celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife Ann last October, the band paid them a special tribute by parading into the chapel at Corduff and performing Amazing Grace in front of the altar. They also played this stirring tune when they joined with four other local pipe bands and the Fuzzy Burgers group in a fundraiser for the restoration of Castleblayney’s former courthouse/Market House building.

Corduff Pipe Band at Castleblayney fundraiser in Glencarn Hotel Photo: © Michael Fisher

Corduff Pipe Band at Castleblayney fundraiser in Glencarn Hotel Photo: © Michael Fisher



Councillors in South Monaghan are arranging an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive of Monaghan County Council to discuss what one of them said was the “absolute scandal” of the roads budget for the coming year. Municipal District members from Carrickmacross-Castleblayney expect to meet Eugene Cummins at their Roads Area Meeting in Monaghan on Monday afternoon, following a meeting of the County Council.

Cllr PJ O'Hanlon  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr PJ O’Hanlon Photo: © Michael Fisher

Councillor PJ O’Hanlon said they seemed to be going back to a budget that was as bad as fifteen years ago. It was one of the most important issues that had arisen since the new Council was introduced last year. The Councillors called for a meeting next week with the five Dáil deputies in the constituency, including the Arts Minister, and for a follow-up meeting to be arranged with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe. Councillor Colm Carthy proposed and his party colleague Councillor Noel Keelan seconded a motion that the Municipal District should write to the Taoiseach and to the Transport Minister to request extra funding for roads in the constituency, in order to upgrade roads that are in serious disrepair. In addition the members called on local Oireachtas members to push this issue with the Departments involved. The motion was agreed.

Cllr Colm Carthy  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr Colm Carthy Photo: © Michael Fisher

Councillor Colm Carthy referred to what he said was the ridiculous situation whereby Bus Eireann was refusing to allow a school bus service to drive along certain local roads because of their bad condition. He said the state of the roads was the top issue being referred to him regularly by members of the public.

Councillor O’Hanlon also referred to the withdrawal by Bus Eireann of a school bus service because of the bad state of repair of a local road. He proposed and Cllr Padraig McNally seconded a call for the Council to write to Bus Eireann and the Transport Minister to say that under no circumstances should a school bus and service bus be taken off the road due to the bad condition of the road without first notifying the relevant authority, i.e. County Council, and that a period of four weeks be given for the works to be done. This was passed unanimously.

Fianna Fáil Councillor PJ O’Hanlon claimed the Fine Gael-led government seemed to have no interest in the maintenance of roads in the county. They needed to sit down with the Transport Minister and ask him how they were expected to promote tourism on the one hand and on the other improve the roads in their area with the budget that had been allocated.


Proposed entrance (with planning notice) to a private members gaming club on ground floor of a vacant commercial unit at rear of Carrickmacross shopping centre Photo: © Michael Fisher

Proposed entrance (with planning notice) to a private members gaming club on ground floor of a vacant commercial unit at rear of Carrickmacross shopping centre Photo: © Michael Fisher

Councillors in Carrickmacross-Castleblayney Municipal District have united in their opposition to plans for a private members gaming club in Carrickmacross. The proposal was totally unnecessary and unwanted for 99.9% of the local population, according to Councillor Padraig McNally.

Cllr Padraig McNally  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr Padraig McNally Photo: © Michael Fisher

Councillor Noel Keelan said they did not want to see any such gambling facilities in Carrick. His Sinn Féin colleague Colm Carthy said he had been contacted by a number of constituents and the proposed club would not be a good thing to have in the locality. Fianna Fáil Councillor PJ O’Hanlon said a lot of parents were concerned for their children regarding the potential dangers of slot machines, which they had never had in the town.

Planning Notice posted on door of the commercial unit on January 16th 2015  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Planning Notice posted on door of the commercial unit on January 16th 2015 Photo: © Michael Fisher

Standing orders were suspended at their meeting on Tuesday in Carrickmacross to allow the five Councillors present to discuss the introduction of bye-laws in the town to prevent the establishment of gambling arcades or any other such gambling facilities. They agreed to write to the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to legislate immediately to allow local authorities to adopt bye-laws that would prohibit gambling facilities, including private members clubs.

Cllr Noel Keelan  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr Noel Keelan Photo: © Michael Fisher

The District Co-ordinator Cathal Flynn explained that the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act (Part III) which governs gaming had never been adopted for the Carrickmacross town area. This meant that unlike Castleblayney, Carrick had never allowed casinos, slot machines or such like into the town.

The District Council received a letter from a local resident saying that as a business person, mother and grandmother, she had serious reservations on what sort of message such an establishment would be sending out, and registering her strong opposition.

Referring to the planning application submitted last month to Monaghan County Council, the objector said that information on the opening and closing hours of the proposed establishment was extremely vague. She said she would be very concerned about the effect that it would have on the high amount of school-going children and young people in the town.

Ground floor unit proposed for conversion into a private members gaming club Photo: © Michael Fisher

Ground floor unit proposed for conversion into a private members gaming club Photo: © Michael Fisher

The planning application was received by Monaghan County Council on January 21st. It was submitted by a local architect on behalf of Carrick Gold Mine Ltd. It seeks full planning permission for a change of use from an existing ground floor commercial unit to a private members gaming club with external signage, and including all other associated site works. The premises is situated beside the car park at the rear of Carrickmacross Shopping Centre at Drummond Etra, Main Street. A site notice was posted on the door of the unit on January 16th. Two people, a man and a woman with an address in Carrickmacross, are described as directors of the registered company making the application. In a letter to the planners they say that the proposed use of the premises will be for a professionally managed Private Members Gaming Club. It would provide card games like Baccarat and other games like Texas Holdem etc “for groups of dedicated card players”. It is the Club’s intention to have weekly Poker tournaments, some of which will be for local sports teams and associations. The club also intends to host charity events for the above groups from time to time, according to the letter. The club’s facilities would be open to members only, who must be over eighteen. The club does not encourage impulsive walk-ins hence the proposed location “is not on the High St. for that reason”. According to the letter, the Club intends to serve teas/coffee and light refreshments and will not be applying for any form of alcohol licence and “it does not intend to sell intoxicating liquer on the premises”.

Cllr Colm Carthy  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr Colm Carthy Photo: © Michael Fisher

Objectors to the plans had until last Tuesday to submit their observations. Seven local people sent in objections. One of them pointed out that there are three secondary schools in Carrickmacross, and claimed that if the proposal is allowed, “it would put a large contingent of impressionable young people in the town at high risk of becoming addicted to gambling”. Another objector expressed concern that the car park area would become a focus for anti-social behaviour.

Northern Standard reporter Michael Fisher examining the planning application 15/13 at Monaghan County Council offices.   Photo: © Rory Geary/Northern Standard

Northern Standard reporter Michael Fisher examining the planning application 15/13 at Monaghan County Council offices. Photo: © Rory Geary/Northern Standard

An investigation of the planning file at Monaghan County Council revealed that the proposed club would have two areas for video machines: six near the front entrance and in Area ‘B’, fourteen video machines in one part and a further ten in another. There would be three “poker tables” and two “pool tables”. There would be a space for a cashier at the back of the room. In a small corner of this space, an area is designated for a “tea/coffee maker”.

Cllr PJ O'Hanlon  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr PJ O’Hanlon Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr Aidan Campbell  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr Aidan Campbell Photo: © Michael Fisher

A decision on the application is due to be taken by St Patrick’s Day, March 17th. The sixth member of the Municipal District Council, Aidan Campbell of Fine Gael, was not present at the meeting but told the Northern Standard he was fully behind the strong objections of his five colleagues.

Cllr Jackie Crowe, Cathaoirleach Carrickmacross-Castleblayney Municipal District Council  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr Jackie Crowe, Cathaoirleach Carrickmacross-Castleblayney Municipal District Council Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cathaoirleach of the Municipal District Council Jackie Crowe also expressed his opposition to the plan.

Carrickmacross News: The Northern Standard p.19 Thursday 26th February 2015  Photos: © Pat Byrne/Rory Geary/Northern Standard/Michael Fisher and may not be reproduced without permission © Michael Fisher MMXV

Carrickmacross News: The Northern Standard p.19 Thursday 26th February 2015 Photos: © Pat Byrne/Rory Geary/Northern Standard/Michael Fisher and may not be reproduced without permission © Michael Fisher MMXV