An uphill battle we must take on!

For many years I have read, with (I’m ashamed to say) barely more than a passing interest, local newspaper reports on the efforts of the communities in the Sliabh Ban and Dysart-Taughmaconnell areas to stop the development of wind farms on their doorsteps. And the names of Ted Kelly and Mike de Jong became familiar to us all as they led the fight to try to prevent the erection of the controversial wind turbines.

  A few weeks ago the news broke, mainly through the efforts of Cllr. Orla Leyden, that Coillte, the semi-state body, had plans to introduce what they call a sustainable commercial development, which really is a posh name for a wind farm, in our local area – and immediately the alarm bells started to ring.

  A meeting took place in Castlecoote at which a large crowd turned up, and following on from that, another meeting was arranged for last Monday night in Kilbegnet Hall, outside Creggs. I went along, a little bit late, but I was in time to see an excellent presentation by Orla Leyden, extolling the many positives our area has as regards environmental, tourism and sporting potential. She highlighted so many natural resources that we have on our doorstep, that I began to wonder was she talking about the area that I have lived in all my life. She certainly was, and she told us that, along with others whose names I don’t know, she has presented a detailed plan to Coillte for the development of tourism, and other associated benefits.

  The meeting was, as they say, thrown over to the floor – and it was at that stage that the horror that these wind farms represent became apparent to me. To their eternal credit, there were several people at the meeting from both Sliabh Ban and the Dysart communities, and as the Sliabh Ban residents spoke, the reality of what we are facing hit home in a very powerful way.  

  Stories of unimaginable noise, losing sleep, headaches, and various other tales of discomfort were all detailed by the Sliabh Ban locals.

  On the issue of regulations, basically there should be no houses inside a kilometre from a 100 metre turbine, or as the turbines on Sliabh Ban are 130 metres high, there should be no dwelling inside 1.3 kilometres in that area. That, apparently, hasn’t happened. There are claims too that the monitoring of noise levels on the mountain hasn’t happened either.

  The sense from the meeting was that the majority of politicians will do nothing to help –except make empty promises – that regulations regarding the construction of the pylons are not enforced, and that basically we are on our own. One speaker said we are facing an uphill battle, but if we are, let the battle begin.  

  Now I only went to the meeting out of curiosity, and I have to say I left with very many alarm bells ringing, and it is obvious to me that despite the spin that will come from Coillte about the lack of interference in our everyday lives, we would do well to do our best to fight this development all the way.

Revealing insight into Alzheimers

Before I turned into Mick Wallace, I used to be the Karaoke King, and for a good few years Dympna Collins and myself travelled the highways and byways of counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, playing in pubs all over the place. We would have the craic as singers of various quality – and in various stages of inebriation – did their best to do justice to whatever songs they chose to sing.

  Looking back now, there were a number of favourite songs that would come up on a regular basis, like On Top of the World, Suspicious Minds, Hound Dog, and one of the most popular of all was the Rhinestone Cowboy, by American country legend, Glen Campbell, right. Now all of this had long since passed from my mind, as it is the guts of twenty years since we hung up the microphones and the records.

  And I never thought much about it since, until I happened to tune into an amazing documentary on some Sky station on Saturday night. Some six or seven years ago, Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and his family took the brave decision to make sure he kept touring while he was able to do so and to make a film documenting the progression of his illness, and so we were treated (maybe not the right word) to a very raw documentary which totally exposed the horrible disease that Alzheimers is.

  The extraordinary thing was that the singer was able to do 150 shows during those few years, and, in nearly all of them, while he sometimes didn’t know where he was, he hardly ever forgot anything to do with music. To the amazement of his doctors, he could still play his guitar, and remember the words of the songs. The documentary didn’t attempt to hide any aspect of the illness, including his occasional temper tantrums, which would have been totally out of character, and in his last ever performance, he finally succumbed to the disease, and as his wife of thirty-two years admitted, it – the final show – was a “trainwreck.” 

  His fans, however, were not bothered, and were glad to have one last look at the country superstar. As for me, it made me have a look at my own life and realise that sometimes the humdrum and the boring continuity of an ordinary everyday existence isn’t so bad, and as we are always told but often forget, our health really is our wealth.

  I had often heard of Alzheimers, or dementia, but in truth, it took this documentary to make me realise what a horrible disease it is, and what a toll it takes, not only on the patient but also on the patient’s family. It was a brave decision to allow the cameras such access to a true legend, but it was definitely worth it, and it opened my eyes to something that might well have stayed hidden if the documentary had not been made.

We owe such a debt to these and other heroes

A few years ago while spending a couple of days in Bundoran, we watched as a coastguard helicopter put on a demonstration of rescuing a number of people from the water. Now of course it was an exercise, but all the elements of a real rescue were present.  

  The helicopter had to hold steady, maybe only fifty feet or so above the raging seas, the winch operator and the winch man had to operate in tandem together, and as we watched I remember marvelling at the skill level and dedication of everyone involved.

  All this came back into my mind this last few days when the news broke of the loss of Rescue 116, a coast guard helicopter off the coast of Mayo, and the enormity of the tragedy brought home the massive debt the entire community owe these very brave men and women, who risk their own lives every time they go out to help someone in trouble.

  The recovery operation is being hampered by the bad weather, but all I can hope is that for the sake of the three families waiting for the bodies of their loved ones, the recovery effort is successful and they can get some closure. 

  We all appreciate the great worth of the emergency services, of all kinds, including the ambulance and fire services, but as a result of this terrible tragedy we may look at them all in the future in a slightly different way.

Slam dunked!

On to sport and after the very poor performance in Cardiff the previous weekend, the way in which our Irish men’s rugby team put an end to another English Grand Slam was a delight to see.

  It restored our pride in the national team and ranks, for me, with the great performances put in by Irish teams over the years. Sadly I wasn’t there due to that thing they call work, but it was an amazing atmosphere and on telly, the noise level was unbelievable, and it proved once again that the Irish are at their best when their backs are to the wall and when very little is expected.

And finally…

Finally for this week, on Thursday last the Tidy Towns Committee held a very enjoyable and successful fundraising table quiz in Mikeen’s, and they are doing it all over again on Friday, 7th of April! I have got my contract as quizmaster renewed, so once again, we will see you all in Mikeen’s on that night.

‘Till next week, Bye for now