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.”

 

CLONES: HERITAGE TOWN

Michael Fisher Northern Standard  Thursday 23rd June p.1

The border town of Clones with its rich monastic past has the potential to be developed as a heritage destination, according to the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys. She suggested a monastic trail could be established in the borderlands area, linking Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way in the west. The Minister was speaking at the launch at the Canal Stores of a digital pictorial record of the High Cross in the Diamond and St Tighernach’s Tomb Shrine.

The laser scan of these important monuments was carried out earlier this year by the Discovery Programme, the national archaeological research body, following a €5,000 grant from the Minister’s department. She said the detailed 3D work would make it easier to preserve and restore the High Cross, which was a focal point in Clones.

“I want to see the cross fully restored, and I would like to see Clones marketed as a monastic heritage town. The Discovery Programme, which carried out this 3D scan, has compiled hundreds of digital images of similar historical objects around the country”, the Minister said. The images are available on various platforms including mobile phones.

Former Bishop of Clogher and medieval expert Dr Joseph Duffy of the Clogher Historical Society said the project showed the importance of our monastic heritage. Clones had been seriously under-estimated in our time, he said. He was particularly interested in the dating of the cross by archaeologist Professor Tadhg O’Keeffe of UCD, showing it was almost contemporary with the Viking invasion., dating possibly between 875AD and 925AD.

Dr Duffy told the Northern Standard the digital models would help to open up a whole new vista of our heritage that had not been previously realised. He said the detailed images of the high cross including the stonework figures captured by the hand-held scanner used brought up the variety of skills and highly developed and refined craftsmanship in medieval Ireland. He was impressed by the images of the cross that had now been recorded for posterity and could be viewed on the 3D-Icons website.

Minister Humphreys said the scanning and digitisation of the Clones cross was a very important first step as part of the project to restore the monument to its former glory. She had officially launched the 3D-Icons project last year in the Royal Irish Academy. She saw how much interest and excitement it had generated amongst some very learned scholars.

The programme promised to make our built heritage much more accessible and appreciated. That promise had been delivered upon in Clones, where our local heritage had literally had new life breathed into it. Clones was rich in monastic heritage and this announcement was a very important step to help us understand more about the high cross.

Historic buildings and archaeological monuments formed an important part of our cultural heritage, a heritage that it was important to value. Historic monuments were the physical testimonies of European history and testified to the diverse cultures that led to the creation of the rich European landscape they knew today. 3D scanning was now becoming an increasingly popular way to document built heritage.

Well over 100 well-known buildings and monuments had now been scanned and modelled, including the Hill of Tara, Derry’s Walls, Skellig Michael, Glendalough, Clonmacnoise, Knowth, Newgrange and over seventy high crosses, including Clones Market Cross. The 3D-Icons project was a great example of how projects could be developed that combined technology with all aspects of heritage.

The Minister congratulated local communities for their co-operation with and facilitation of such projects. In Clones she had had a very constructive meeting on the possibilities of developing Clones as a heritage destination. As a former monastic settlement, Clones had a huge amount to offer. She wanted to look at ways to enhance the town and attract new visitors.

She said there was no intention at the moment to move the cross from its present position and any such change would not be done unless it was in co-operation with the local community. If there was substantial erosion to the stonework in the next twenty years or so, then they now had a digital record that could be used to construct an exact replica. This would also allow them to put the original cross in a place where it was protected from the weather.

“The preservation of our built heritage is a subject about which I am particularly passionate”, the Minister went on, “and it will continue to be a priority under my new portfolio, which encompasses Rural Affairs and Regional Development, including the roll-out of rural broadband. In conclusion, I have no doubt that the Discovery Programme’s ongoing 3D work will prove to be an essential source of guidance and knowledge for everyone interested not only in architectural and archaeological monuments, but also new technology, for many years to come.”

Archaeologist Dr Finbar McCormick who is originally from Rockcorry and attended secondary school in Monaghan is a senior lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast and Chair of the Discovery Programme. He hoped that with the support of the Heritage Council, they could run outreach programmes to promote an appreciation of Ireland’s archaeological past. County Monaghan has a rich heritage, he said.

Dr McCormick praised the work done by Monaghan County Museum since its foundation in 1974 as the first local authority funded museum. He praised the foresight of the late George Cannon, the County Manager at the time, and the work done by the Clogher Historical Society, one of the earliest such groups to be established in Ulster. He explained how the new scanning technology would enable experts to monitor any erosion of monuments and to record them for posterity.

Professor O’Keeffe gave a short lecture on the history of the Market Cross. Standing in the Diamond in Clones, the cross is made up of at least three fragments consisting of the head of one cross and the shaft of another, a stepped stone base and a later fragment on top. He said this was not surprising as Clones was an important medieval religious settlement dedicated to St Tighernach, whose tomb shrine is in the medieval churchyard. It would have had a number of crosses on its boundary and within its domain.

The cross belongs to a northern group of crosses, another example of which is located at Arboe, Co.Tyrone on the shores of Lough Neagh. As with many Irish high crosses it was difficult to date, especially as it was made up of various fragments. In Professor O’Keeffe’s estimation some of the fragments may date to the ninth or tenth centuries, the main period of construction of high crosses.

The iconography follows the pattern found elsewhere: the shaft depicts ‘Daniel in the Lions’ Den’, ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac’, ‘Adam and Eve with the Tree of Life’, ‘The Adoration of the Magi’, ‘The Wedding at Cana’ and ‘The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes’. Beaded decoration runs up sides of the two faces and also around distinctive collar at top of the shaft. The head of cross includes a Crucifixion scene while at the centre of south-west of head is another depiction of ‘Daniel in the Lions’ Den’, with ‘Cain slaying Abel’ to left and possibly ‘Pilate washing his hands’ to right.

Professor O’Keeffe pointed out that an enduring paradox of early medieval Christianity in Ireland was that its great works of art such as its high crosses, illuminated gospel books (such as the Book of Kells), and rich altar plate (such as the Ardagh Chalice) had been produced to serve a Church which invested very little in built fabric. Contemporary Irish churches were small, ill-lit buildings, capable at best of holding no more than several dozen people at a time. Viking raids in the late eighth and early ninth centuries certainly disrupted the pattern of production at church sites in Ireland, but their impact was not fatal. In fact, the Viking contribution to medieval Irish civilization was ultimately very positive, he said.

The EU-funded 3D-Icons project aims to create highly accurate 3D models along with images, texts and videos of iconic and internationally important monuments and buildings across Europe and to provide access to this data on line. The pictures from Clones can be accessed at www.3dicons.ie.

 

MAINTAINING QUALITY BEEF

ABP CLONES: A VITAL PART OF BEEF INDUSTRY

Northern Standard reporter Michael Fisher was among a group from the Guild of Agricultural Journalists invited to tour the ABP meat plant at Clones last Thursday. The company organised a visit to a local beef farmer near Carrickmacross and sponsored a barbeque and dinner. The event was organised three months ago. NORTHERN STANDARD Thursday 16th June 2016 p.14

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ABP Clones General Manager George Mullan with a group from the Guild of Agricultural Journalists. Photo courtesy of ABP.

QUALITY IRISH BEEF

Irish beef has begun to re-establish its first class reputation on the menus of leading restaurants and the shelves of supermarkets in Britain and Europe. The Bord Bia Origin Green scheme of which the ABP Group is a founder member emphasises sustainability and the reduction of environmental impact. So any development in the agri-sector that could affect the reputation of quality beef is potentially worrying.

The ABP Group owned by businessman Larry Goodman is the largest beef processor in Ireland and the UK. It is proud of its record in producing quality Irish beef mainly for export to the United Kingdom and Europe. Various measures are taken at processing plants such as Clones to ensure that high standards are maintained at all times.

Visits to the ABP factory in Clones are strictly regulated. Human hygiene is crucial, as in any meat or food plant. On entry to the plant, visitors must wear protective clothing and hairnets, as well as removing jewellery. Footwear must be replaced by wellington boots, which are scrubbed meticulously in a special walk-through unit before entry is permitted to the boning and other sections. Hands must be washed and disinfectant gels applied.

The boning plant has different sections and each part of the animal carcass is used up along the line, starting with the hide. By-products are sent to some of the company’s other units.

The top class steak cuts were skillfully removed and later packaged, labelled with ABP’s own brand. In the packing hall differently coloured boxes indicated the various countries the meat was destined for, such as the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

TRACEABILITY

Veterinary inspectors from the Department of Agriculture check the carcasses and stamp them before they are processed. Each carcass is given a tag with details of the farm it came from and where it was slaughtered. Photographs are taken of each individual carcass as it passes along the production line. New tags with barcodes are attached and after chilling they are sent to the boning hall. This is to ensure traceability of the meat to help reassure customers at the end of the food chain and to ensure quality can be maintained.

The tour of the plant then moves outside to the lairage facility where cattle arrive to be processed. The ABP Food Group say animal welfare is a cornerstone of their business, so they have invested heavily in ensuring that customers can be 100% secure in the integrity of their processes.

The company source farm-assured cattle from throughout Ireland (including Co. Monaghan) and the UK. Although the fields of Co. Fermanagh are just a stone’s throw away, the company processes only cattle from the Republic, within a 50 mile distance of the plant. This is because there are special regulations for processing cattle from the North and they could not be handled at the same time as animals from the Republic.

ABP worked closely with the bestselling author and world-renowned livestock-expert Dr Temple Grandin to design and plan their facilities and procedures. She approved every aspect of the holding pens (lairage), assisting the company’s goal to ensure cattle are relaxed and stress-free prior to slaughter. There is a special slat rubber system for the cattle to walk on. Not only does this give livestock the respect and integrity they deserve, but the lower pre-mortem glycogen levels and PH balance of stress-free animals make for a higher quality and tenderness of carcass, according to ABP.

Dr Grandin campaigned to reduce the prodding of cattle with electric goads by showing a humane approach makes much better quality meat. She designed the lairage with curved solid walls, baffled gate latches to cut down noise, and uniform colour and lighting to reduce stress on the cattle. The curved walls ensure each animal is prevented from seeing what lies ahead and just concentrates on the hind quarters of the animal in front of it.

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ABP Clones General Manager George Mullan (right) explaining the various stages of processing at the meat plant to Michael Fisher. Photo courtesy of ABP.

George Mullan, general manager of ABP Clones, who showed the visiting group around the plant, said since the lairage was opened three years ago he had noticed a huge difference in the behaviour of cattle at the plant. They’re happier animals and calmer at all times, he said. “Animal welfare is a very major concern of the consumer in this present day”, he added.

Mr Mullan explained how following slaughter the patented hanging process increased the natural breakdown of muscle fibres in each carcass while it hung and matured prior to de-boning. ABP Food Group has also created a method of sympathetically chilling the carcass to prevent cold shortening and guarantee absolute tenderness in the beef.

The Managing Director of ABP Beef (Ireland) Finbarr McDonnell outlined the group’s four divisions. ABP Food Group Ireland is Europe’s leading beef exporter, specialising in beef processing, de-boning and retail packing. It has a long tradition of working with farmers and customers, operating highly efficient factories supplying quality beef to European and worldwide retail markets.

The UK branch of ABP is a leading supplier of fresh and frozen meat and meat-free products. It continues to drive innovation in every aspect of business, including collaborative partnerships with customers, to industry leading practices in processing and product development. The ABP Ellesmere development near Liverpool is an example of embedding sustainability at the heart of the company’s operations. Over £20million has been invested to make this plant a carbon neutral operation.

ABP Pet Foods is one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of private label pet food, producing 570,000 tonnes every year from seven facilities. C&D Foods with headquarters in Mullingar is headed by Philip Reynolds, whose father set up the original company. Philip sold a majority interest in the business to ABP in 2011.

The fourth arm of the group is Olleco, the largest collector of used cooking oil in these islands, employing 550 people. It helps many of the biggest restaurants and catering groups to maximise the environmentally sustainable treatment of waste food and oil products.

More than 30 years ago used cooking oil was collected and used in animal feed. When this was banned owing to tighter regulations, a huge amount of used cooking oil ended up in landfill or was illegally poured into drains. Olleco looked at other ways to recover the value from this resource. The company started to collect both used cooking oil and food waste and convert them into renewable energy instead of throwing it away.

With fourteen depots across the UK the company is one of the UK’s largest distributors of cooking oils to the catering trade. In 2013 a specialist biodiesel plant was constructed in Liverpool. Capable of producing 16 million litres of biodiesel it is the UK’s largest purpose built plant dedicated to producing biodiesel from used cooking oil. Two years later Olleco opened the first anaerobic digestion plant, providing the heat and power to operate the biodiesel plant. Tallow is collected at the Clones plant and is sent to England for processing.

Finbarr McDonnell joined ABP in 1973 and held a variety of positions with the company including Group Production Manager and Factory Manager at the Cahir plant. He was appointed Chief Executive of ABP Beef (Ireland) in January 2008. He predicted that with a market turning its back on Friesian types and a re-nationalisation of the French market, cattle prices could be hit in the latter half of 2016.

“It is unfortunate that sterling is where it is and unfortunate that live exports are dead in the water,” he told the Guild of Agricultural Journalists. He urged the country’s expanding dairy sector to prioritise cross-breeding with the traditional Irish Hereford and Angus breeds for which ABP were pushing an open door on export markets. He said the company was ‘concerned’ about how the Brexit referendum next Thursday might turn out.

Mr McDonnell said the market was now ten times more in favour of Hereford and Angus than Friesian beef, adding that he was “very worried” about the consequences for the progeny of dairy farms unless they adapted to breeding more for market requirements. ABP currently handled over a fifth of national output, equivalent to 125,000t per year. It planned to expand further on its 41 sites within the EU employing up to 9000 people. The company was optimistic of a successful outcome to its bid to buy 50pc of Slaney Foods within the coming weeks. The move would result in ABP controlling 28% of the national beef kill.

A year ago ABP Food Group completed a €50 million redevelopment of its facilities in Cahir, Co. Tipperary. It included an extension and upgrade of food processing facilities as well as the introduction of a new state-of-the-art gel bone production plant at its neighbouring by-products site. A report by Oxford Economics and KPMG found that the upgraded facilities employing over 600 people are expected to be worth over €200 million a year to the local economy in Tipperary and surrounding counties.

The plant in Clones employs around 300, with 60% of the staff coming from abroad, including Lithuania and Poland. Based on the Cahir study, this would indicate that the Teehill factory brings in a benefit of around €100 million a year to Co. Monaghan and the surrounding area. This is taking into account employment created by the factory in subsidiary areas like haulage and canteen supplies. ABP is one of the largest employers in the county. It also contributes to the local community through charitable activities such as sport.

THE SUPPLIERS

Freddie and Caroline Merrin farm land at Ballyloughan, Lough Fea, outside Carrickmacross. The Merrins operate a weanling to beef system and have received Bord Bia awards for their product. They are members of the 150-strong Monaghan Quality Cattle Producer Group that supplies cattle to ABP in Clones. Freddie is originally from Killanny and Caroline comes from Kells, Co. Meath.

The farm is 170 acres and there is a similar acreage on a long-term lease from the adjoining Lough Fea estate. The Merrins are helped by their three children, Emma, George, and Linda, a Leaving Certificate student at St Louis secondary school, Carrickmacross. Emma and George are both attend UCD, studying history and science respectively.

Weanlings are grazed and finished out of the shed as either bulls or steers the following winter. The sheds are multi-functional and there is a huge emphasis on grass utilisation. At the moment there are around 700 cattle on the farm. Freddie bought in 350 calves over a five-week period starting in mid-February. He would usually go to the mart in Bandon to buy them.

After a spell in the sheds the calves are out out to grass between mid-May and mid-June. Bull calves would usually be brought to be killed before 24 months and heifer calves before 20 months. When it came to sending them to the factory there could be no room for sentimentality, Freddie said.

ABP Group Livestock Manager Paul Mathews said the company was investing in genetics and had its own herd for research. He said they needed to build up a strong database about breeds and they were working alongside the Irish Aberdeen Angus Association. The Merrins enterprise was one of the best examples of a family farm amongst their suppliers, according to the company.

 

PENTECOST SUNDAY IN CLONES

Archdeacon of Clogher and Rector of Clones Canon Helene Steed introduces the ecumenical service in Clones   Photo: © Michael Fisher

Archdeacon of Clogher and Rector of Clones Canon Helene Steed introduces the ecumenical service in Clones Photo: © Michael Fisher

Pentecost Sunday Ecumenical Prayer Service in Clones 

Michael Fisher    Northern Standard  Thursday 28th May p.35

They set off from St Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan early on Sunday morning. A small group of pilgrims on a “spiritual footsteps” walk. Others walked from the Church of Ireland in Ballybay. At Newbliss they had refreshments at the Presbyterian church hall, before resuming their journey on foot to Clones.

The walk was organised by the Knights of St Columbanus to mark the 1400th anniversary of the death of the saint. The pilgrims were joined by a group of around 100 others at the historic Round Tower site, connected with St Tiernach, who founded a monastery there in the sixth century.

It was a fitting location for the annual ecumenical prayer service organised by the Catholic and Protestant dioceses of Clogher to mark Pentecost Sunday. Previous settings have included Devenish Island, Lisnaskea, Errigal Truagh, Glaslough and Inniskeen, all connected with the development of Christianity in Ireland.

The service was introduced by the Archdeacon of Clogher and Rector of the Clones group of parishes, Canon Helene Steed. The opening hymn was Amazing Grace. The singing and music was led by students from Largy College in Clones. The Catholic Bishop of Clogher Dr Liam MacDaid and his Church of Ireland counterpart Right Reverend John McDowell participated in the prayers and readings from scripture. The Parish Priest of Clones Fr Dick Mohan read from St Columbanus on “Cultivating Virtue”.

Two students from Largy College Clones speak about their faith during the ecumenical service  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Two students from Largy College Clones speak about their faith during the ecumenical service Photo: © Michael Fisher

Two students from Largy College, Christy Biji (fifth year) and Harry Cleary (second year) gave reflections on what their faith meant. Following the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer, the choir sang “Walk in the Light” to bring the service to a conclusion. This was followed by a talk on Saint Columbanus by Fr Billy Swan CC, St Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy.

Fr Billy Swan CC, St Aidan's Enniscorthy, giving a talk on St Columbanus after the ecumenical service Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Fr Billy Swan CC, St Aidan’s Enniscorthy, giving a talk on St Columbanus after the ecumenical service Photo: © Michael Fisher

He described how in 615 this much revered and travelled Irishman passed away at Bobbio in Italy, far away from the place of his birth along the Carlow/Wexford border in 543. Having studied for years on the beautiful Cleenish Island on Lough Erne, St. Columbanus made his way to Bangor Abbey in Co. Down where he lived as an Abbot under the guidance of St. Comgall. It was in 583, at the then relatively old age of 40 years, that St. Columbanus set out, along with twelve companions, to spread the Christian message across extensive parts of Europe. Fr Swan said the example of Columbanus showed the importance of the need for renewal in people’s faith. Refreshments were served afterwards at the Cassandra Hand centre.

Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops of Clogher Dr Liam MacDaid and Rt Revd John McDowell at the ecumenical service in Clones  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops of Clogher Dr Liam MacDaid and Rt Revd John McDowell at the ecumenical service in Clones Photo: © Michael Fisher

CLONES ‘NOT BEING DOWNGRADED’

GAA President Aoghan Ó Fearghail at St Joseph's Boys NS Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

GAA President Aoghán Ó Fearghail at St Joseph’s Boys NS Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

GAA PRESIDENT SAYS CLONES IS NOT BEING DOWNGRADED 

Michael Fisher Northern Standard Thursday 21st May p.2

Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail says the Association is not downgrading St Tiarnach’s Park in Clones, while at the same time seeking to redevelop Casement Park in Belfast. During a visit to Carrickmacross on Monday (18th May), the GAA President told the Northern Standard Clones had nothing to fear from Casement. He said Clones (where the Ulster Final has traditionally been played) provided a very vital infrastructure for the GAA over the years. He said the GAA in Ulster was also committed to developing Casement. But the planned development of a 38,000 capacity arena was stalled in December following a court case in Belfast. Planning permission for the expansion of the stadium was denied by the High Court after an objection from a local residents’ group They raised concerns about what kind of impact the larger crowds would have on the area. The GAA President said the Association always respected rules and decisions and would await the outcome of any further planning enquiries. He pointed to the situation at Kingspan Breffni Park, where Cavan take on Monaghan on Sunday in the Ulster Championship. He said ten years ago some people thought the stadium had reached the end of its existence as a GAA venue, but now after redevelopment it was one of the finest such stadiums in the country.

LÁ FHÉILE PÁDRAIG

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on www.visiblecommunities.org

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on http://www.visiblecommunities.org

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona dár gcairde agus teaghlach! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to friends and family! I will be in Birmingham on the feastday, Tuesday, which has now become a national festival in Ireland. The parade in Birmingham takes place tomorrow, Sunday, having survived a funding crisis this year following council spending cuts. Meanwhile in County Monaghan and neighbouring areas, various towns and villages will be celebrating over the next few days. Here is a list of some of them:

BALLYBAY: The parade organised by the local Chamber of Commerce sets off from Gerry Traynor’s shop at 5pm. There will be live music and dancing from 3pm. A prize of €500 is offered for best float, with the runner-up receiving €300 and third place a prize of €200.

CARRICKMACROSS: Parade at 3pm. See my report last Sunday.

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on www.visiblecommunities.org

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on http://www.visiblecommunities.org

CLONES: A parade with a difference takes place in the town on Monday 16th March. Participants are being asked to come along at 6:30pm to Páirc Naomh Tiarnach with glow-sticks and lights, to light up the route. The parade will begin at 7:00pm along Church Hill and Fermanagh Street to The Diamond, where a fireworks display will be held at 8:30pm.

INNISKEEN: The celebrations in Patrick Kavanagh country will be tomorrow, Sunday 15th March. The parade in the village will be at 1:00pm. Today they were hunting leprechauns in the area!

MONAGHAN: The parade in the town will be the biggest in the county. The parade starts at 3:00pm and the route begins at the Lower Courthouse car park. It then goes along Broad Road, Park Street, Heaton’s Corner, left along North Road, Glaslough Street and then proceeds past the reviewing stand in The Diamond, continuing on to Dublin Street. British rally champion Daniel McKenna from County Monaghan is this year’s Grand Marshall. Participants have been asked to incorporate the theme ‘There’s no place like home’ into their parade contributions.
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Following the parade the ‘Gig Rig’ will host peformances from several local acts from 4:00pm until 10:00pm.

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on www.visiblecommunities.org

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on http://www.visiblecommunities.org

NEWBLISS: The parade in the village is at 2:00pm tomorrow, Sunday 15th March, led by Daniel McKenna, the British rally champion, who comes from the area. There will also be a car boot sale on the day from 12:30pm.

ORAM: Near Castleblayney and home of country music legend Big Tom has built up a reputation for the smallest parade in Ireland. There will be live country and Irish music outside Rooney’s with Paddy King on the stand at 11:30am and the parade on Tuesday will start at 12:30pm from the Oram Centre. There will be a vintage display and a number of floats. Lady Mayor Margaret Ward will deliver a welcome address along with Big Tom McBride at 1:00pm. There will be jigs and reels from All-Ireland and world champion dancers from the Karen McMahon School. The celebrations will continue late into the evening.

COOTEHILL in County Cavan has a parade at 3pm. There are also annual parades in Kingscourt and Shercock.

DUNDALK and Ardee in County Louth will also be celebrating. Have a good day, wherever you are around the world! You are welcome to post greetings below in the comments section, especially if you have a Monaghan connection.

St Patrick's Day greeting card from USA Photo: www.smithtowntodaynews.com

St Patrick’s Day greeting card from USA Photo: http://www.smithtowntodaynews.com

ICA MONAGHAN FEDERATION

ICA Monaghan Federation President Patricia Cavanagh and guest speaker Michael Fisher at the ICA meeting in Clones

ICA Monaghan Federation President Patricia Cavanagh and guest speaker Michael Fisher at the ICA meeting in Clones

Many people will know the story of the US Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks. But have they ever heard of Rosa Patterson? I hadn’t until tonight when I broke for the border, as it were, and landed in Clones where I was the guest of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association. The County Monaghan Federation held their quarterly meeting at the Protestant Hall (kindly granted). I addressed the crowd of about sixty women about publicity. Thank you for the invitation and the tea afterwards; keep up the good work and hopefully you will continue to provide the local media with news of your many activities.

Maureen Gavin, ICA Aghabog Guild, with her winning poem on 60 Years of the ICA in Monaghan  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Maureen Gavin, ICA Aghabog Guild, with her winning poem on 60 Years of the ICA in Monaghan Photo: © Michael Fisher

Maureen Gavin from Aghabog won the contest for the best poem to celebrate 60 years of the ICA in the county. It told the story of Rosa Patterson, a teacher in Ballybay, who set up the first Guild in county Monaghan. The Clones Guild is well organised. One of its most famous members is Mamo McDonald, who went on to become ICA President in 1982 for a three-year term and is now an Honorary President of the Association. The group has over 10,000 members throughout the Republic of Ireland, in 500 Guilds.

ICA Monaghan Federation President Patricia Cavanagh holds up a prizewinning quilted cushion Photo: © Michael Fisher

ICA Monaghan Federation President Patricia Cavanagh holds up a prizewinning quilted cushion Photo: © Michael Fisher