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Solstice Choir offers hope following Blackrock search


'An emotional experience’ – Hoban


The tightknit coastal community of Blacksod in Co. Mayo has rallied together over the past six weeks following the Rescue 116 helicopter tragedy at Blackrock lighthouse on March 14th.

  Last weekend saw an intensified search take place in the area with up to 175 divers working tirelessly in an effort to locate remaining missing crew members, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby.

  A few weeks ago as the tragic events were unfolding and as the local community scrambled heroically to support the search effort, Roscommon Solstice Choir had offered its services in any way that could prove helpful. It was arranged therefore that the choir would make its way to Blacksod last Sunday in order to perform a concert in aid of the community.

  Choir chairperson, James Hoban, said that it was an emotional experience.

  “It was a real rollercoaster of emotion – it was the most difficult but most rewarding concert. We felt insignificant compared to what everyone else had done over the past six weeks.

  “We didn’t arrive with diving equipment but we arrived with hope and aiming to express the country’s gratitude for what the local community had done for those involved in the search,” he said.

  James highlighted the mammoth task taken on by members of the local community who had not only taken part in the search but had provided food and shelter to those arriving from all over the country.

  So, as the remaining divers returned to shore last Sunday, choir members Vera Cusack and Bernie Naughton stepped forward with a wreath which Bernie had created. Three red roses to represent Captain Mark Duffy, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman, Ciaran Smith and one pink rose to represent Captain Dara Fitzpatrick.

  As the wreath was laid on the lighthouse helipad, the choir sang ‘Amazing Grace’ in the sunlight. This was followed by Eimear Reynolds’ heart-wrenching rendition of Sarah McLachlan’s ‘In the Arms of an Angel’. The ceremony provided a measure of closure and comfort to those returning from their exhausting work in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.

  According to founding member Marie Gillooly, the choir had arrived in the midst of an awe-inspiring search operation, aiming to bring some measure of comfort and hope to the heartbroken families of Rescue 116 and the coastal community.

  “We went down there to pay our respects to Rescue 116 firstly by laying a wreath and performing the concert. We also wanted to provide some comfort and hope for the community of Blacksod. Way down the list was the financial support. The people of Roscommon offered great support. There are cards and letters down in Blacksod from all over Roscommon. People in the county heard about this and offered donations without me even asking,” said Marie.

  Local coordinator in Blacksod, John Gallagher, described the underwater search operation and the role played by members of the Blacksod community over the past few weeks.

  “160 dives took place over the two days last weekend with diving teams from all over the country taking part. It was a huge coming together of people which culminated in the wreath laying and then the concert in St. Brendan’s Church in Tirraun,” he said.

  Mr. Gallagher spoke about the “huge sense of emotional highs and lows” since the tragedy and paid tribute to the many local volunteers who have assisted in the search. He described how the community had come together to find beds and feed those arriving to assist.

  His emotion was audible as he highlighted the importance of local involvement in the search.

  “The whole community was passionate in this. This was personal to us. Local boats would go where the navy wouldn’t even go. The search also shows how important local knowledge is. It was a local boat which had listening equipment on it as we searched for the ping (of the blackbox recorder).”

  He also praised the Roscommon Solstice Choir and the people of Roscommon for the assistance and support they have provided.

  “The choir brought an element of peace, harmony and comfort...I’m thankful to them for coming to our aid, they helped us to get over the line.”

  The Roscommon Solstice Choir had initially made their way to Blacksod to offer some measure of comfort and support to those involved in the search operation. In the end, their arrival and subsequent emotional performance in St. Brendan’s Church provided a level of closure and a ray of hope at the end of a heart-wrenching weekend in search of fallen heroes.


Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan writes on Brexit and The White Paper…

You will I’m sure remember that during the negotiation process between then UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the EU, it couldn’t have been any more clearly stated that restricting the freedom of movement of people was non-negotiable. David Cameron came back from those negotiations virtually empty-handed. Weak to the point that the people of the UK were not going to be convinced and ultimately, and for many predictably, voted for Brexit.

  Well, the strange thing is that as the United Kingdom packs its bags and heads for the door, the EU has decided to contemplate the very idea that tipped the Brexit vote over the edge; in what they have called ‘The White Paper on the future Europe’. The Commission is putting one of its so-called four fundamentals on the line, limiting the freedom of movement of people.

  The ‘White Paper’ offers five scenarios on how the EU will look in 2025. 1. Carrying on as we are, 2. Nothing but the single market, 3. Those who want to do more do more, 4. Doing less more efficiently, and 5. Doing much more together.

  When one reads into the detail of these five scenarios it is clear that option two and three open up the possibility that if a country so chooses then it could restrict the freedom of movement of people.

  So in theory, by December we could have a situation whereby the EU will have decided that its future lies with scrapping the freedom of movement of people, while at the same time be negotiating with the UK on the basis that there can be no trade deal without freedom of movement of people. Work that out! I mean, if they had engaged in this process before the UK left, would we now be in this position?

  In the Commission press release on ‘The White Paper’ they say that there will be a series of ‘Future of Europe Debates’ across Europe’s cities and regions in the coming months to “harvest and harness opinions on the desired way forward”. In September President Juncker will present these ‘opinions’ to the Parliament. The European Council will draw conclusions in December.

  The Commissioan also points to the next European Parliament elections as being the deciding factor in which path we choose. Good. This will finally get political parties in Ireland to nail their colours to the mast on where they stand on the EU. I clearly favour option two or three which returns sovereignty to the nation state. But where do our other Irish MEPs stand on this? Will they choose option five? If they do then we can say goodbye to this country. Budgets decided centrally. Ireland a mere region in the United States of Europe. Your children committed to a European Army. No thanks.

  People talk a lot about how the European Union is a peace project. They should remember we had peace before Lisbon and Nice. More than we do now. Let’s get back to what actually worked.

  The big question though is how serious are the EU about this process. Will it be a case of token consultation with a predetermined ‘ever closer union’ outcome. We’ll see. But now that this process has started, the Commission must be forced to take it seriously. Let the process begin!


* Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan is an Independent MEP for Midlands-North West constituency.

Emergency Services to host open day

First event of its kind in county next Saturday

Roscommon Fire Station will play host to the inaugural Emergency Services Open Day on Saturday, May 6th.

  On the day the public will be invited to attend and meet members from An Garda Síochána, the Fire Service, Ambulance Service and The Civil Defence. It will also be an opportunity to see the Garda vehicles, ambulances and Fire Brigades up close. The RSA roadshow will also be present with their car and bike simulators as well as their roll-over car, which will demonstrate just what happens when a vehicle is involved in an accident.

  It is also hoped that the Garda Mounted and Garda Dog units will also be in attendance and it is also hoped that the Garda helicopter will perform a ‘hover over’ on the day.

  Members of the public, both young and old are welcome to come along on the Saturday to discover just what the emergency services in Co. Roscommon do and to see some of the resources available to them.

  There will be face painting and other entertainment for children on the day it is hoped that the event will provide the public with an opportunity to meet the ‘human face’ behind the county’s emergency services.

  The event will take place from 11 am to 3 pm on Saturday, May 6th at Roscommon Fire Station. All are welcome to attend.



WDC Chairperson’s stinging attack

There are calls this week for Minister Michael Ring to make a full statement after the chairperson of the Western Development Commission wrote to the minister asking him not to re-appoint him to the role.

   In a damning letter to the Acting CEO of the WDC, Paddy McGuinness explained that he believes “strongly that there is absolutely no commitment at either political or administrative level to balanced regional development, nor is there any worthwhile plan to redress rural decline.”  He also details what he terms the Government’s ‘lack of interest in the Commission’s work’.”

  Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy says ‘the lid has been lifted’ on the Government’s “lack of commitment” to seriously tackle the ongoing problem of rural decline following the circulation of the letter.

  Deputy Murphy said:“ The fact that Paddy McGuinness, one of rural Ireland’s greatest advocates, felt that he had to take such unprecedented action is deeply regrettable. It is further evidence of the anger and frustration that exists in rural Ireland at this Government’s complete disinterest and abandonment of communities in the western region.

  “The Western Development Commission has been extremely successful, but in recent years has been starved of resources and Government support.”

  Mr. McGuinness notes that the Commission was left without a board for over three months in 2014 and presently does not have a board since February of this year. The position of CEO has been vacant for almost three years.

  “It simply beggars belief,” said Deputy Murphy. “This Government’s attitude to the Western Development Commission, and rural Ireland as a whole, is a disgrace.”

  Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said: “The letter from Paddy McGuinness is further evidence that the Government is only paying lip service to the development and regeneration of rural Ireland and that it is not serious when it comes to addressing the real problems that exist.

  “When I voiced those views in the recent past, I was slated as being too negative. I am joining in the calls for Minister Ring to make a statement on this most serious matter. Either we are serious about rural decline and regeneration of the regions or we are not. On the evidence of what we have seen so far there is no real commitment, only plenty of waffle and empty promises” he concluded.

In the pipeline: The €10m Irish Water project extension

Irish Water marked the start of construction on the extension of the Lough Mask Regional Water Supply to Ballinlough in Co. Roscommon and Williamstown in Co. Galway with a sod-turning event on Monday.

  This project represents an investment of €10 million by Irish Water and will ensure a clean and secure supply of drinking water for the 5,000 consumers on the two supplies, while also allowing for the removal of the a long-standing boil water notice in Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon affecting 3,600 of those consumers.

  Both the Ballinlough and Williamstown water supplies are also on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Remedial Action List (RAL). Upon completion of these works the existing Ballinlough and Williamstown water treatment plants will be decommissioned.

  Speaking at the event, Michael Tinsley, Irish Water’s Infrastructure Portfolio Delivery Manager commented: “This project will provide a long-term solution to long-term problems experienced by the people of Ballinlough and Williamstown. The good news for the people who are to benefit from this major investment is that they will enjoy a consistent supply of high quality drinking water without the need to boil it.

  “The project outlines the importance of a one-utility approach to the provision of water services where a major source will supply three counties and ensure compliance with requirements set out in the EU Drinking Water Directive and national drinking water regulations.”

  Irish Water has appointed BSG Civil Engineering Limited to carry out the works, which are on track to be completed in one year.

  The works include the construction of over 22 kilometres of new water mains, a new water pumping station at the Ballyhaunis reservoir, and the construction of a new reservoir and control building at the site of the existing Garranlahan water tower near Ballinlough. The existing Ballinlough and Williamstown water treatment plants will be decommissioned as a result of this robust solution to the long-standing water problems experienced in both of these areas.


Lamb Festival weekend!

There was a good turnout at Roscommon Mart yesterday (Wednesday) for the official opening of the tenth annual Roscommon Lamb Festival and the unveiling of a sculpture by local stonemason, Mark Feeley.

  The official opening was presided over by John Lynskey, IFA Sheep Chairman. Mr. Lynskey was standing in for IFA Chairman Joe Healy who was unavailable as he had been called away for an important Brexit meeting.

  Roscommon Lamb Festival Chairman, Gerry Browne, Roscommon IFA Chairman John Hanley, Cathaoirleach Tony Ward, County Council CEO Eugene Cummins and Jimmy Murray, Chairman of Roscommon Mart each addressed those present before Mr. Lynskey unveiled Mark Feeley’s sculpture of a ewe and lamb, which will be placed in The Square in Roscommon town.

  Festival Chairman, Gerry Browne paid tribute to the “hard-working committee” following a successful decade of hosting the popular event.

  The Lamb Festival opened with music from King Street Bluegrass band from Virginia, USA and will continue throughout the weekend until bank holiday Monday. The festival will feature numerous historical and local heritage events and promises to showcase the very best Roscommon has to offer.

  As part of the festival, numerous walks and exhibitions will take place this weekend including a Leather Design Workshop with award winning designer Una Burke who is originally from Boyle.

   The festival will also play host to a street party on Saturday night in Roscommon town as well as a beer and cider festival at JJ Harlow’s and a family fun day on Sunday at 2 pm in Loughnaneane Park.

  This year’s Roscommon Lamb Festival has something for everyone and the curtain will be brought down on bank holiday Monday with the Carers’ Mini Marathon at Hannon’s Hotel.


Easter Commemorations in County Roscommon


Roscommon Sinn Féin held three Easter Commemorations over the Easter weekend – in  Kilglass on Easter Saturday, Arigna on Easter Sunday and Gorthaganny on Easter Monday.

  Every Easter, Sinn Féin organise commemorations to remember our patriot dead at gravesides and monuments in every county across the State. This year marked the 101st anniversary of the Easter Rising.

  On Easter Saturday crowds gathered at the graveside of Volunteer Frank O’Donohue in Kilglass cemetery. This commemoration was chaired by Gary Tynan, Strokestown and the main oration was delivered by Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó’ Caoláin. Cathal Tynan, Patricia Collins, Henry Hughes and Claire Kerrane laid wreaths. Gerard Maher read the Proclamation and Deirdre Maher read the Roscommon Roll of Honour. On Easter Sunday morning, Seamus and Michael Cull along with Patrick Tymon were remembered at Arigna cemetery. Jim Gaffney chaired the commemoration and Claire Kerrane delivered the main oration. Mickey Cull led a decade of the rosary. Micky Cull, Tom Cull, Thomas Lynch, Sean Wynne and Martina Earley laid wreaths. Leah Cull read the Proclamation and Dominic Duignan read the Roscommon Roll of Honour.

A huge crowd gathered at the memorial for Michael Glavey in Clooncan, Gorthaganny on Easter Monday afternoon. Cllr. Michael Mulligan chaired the commemoration and Claire Kerrane delivered the main oration. Mary Hanmore led a decade of the rosary. Edith Forkin, Henry Hughes, Paul Regan on behalf of the local community and Tom Hurley laid wreaths, grand-nephew of Michael Glavey. Martin Hogan read the Proclamation and Seamus O’Brien read the Roscommon Roll of Honour.

  Roscommon Sinn Féin would like to thank all of those who took part in the weekend’s events with a special thanks to all who attended over the weekend.


‘Ring must make statement’


Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy expressed deep alarm at what he said is a “damning indictment of Government policy in relation to the West of Ireland and rural communities in general.”

  The MEP has called on Michael Ring to make a statement on the issue immediately.

  Of Mr. McGuinness’s decision to write to Minister Michael Ring asking him not to consider him for reappointment, Mr. Carthy says: “Criticisms made by Mr. McGuinness of the manner in which the WDC has been treated by Government are deeply alarming.

  “Mr. McGuinness says that the the Minister’s Department has never engaged with him on what the WDC was doing or whether it could achieve more.

  “The WDC is an important element with a good record of achievement but it clear from Mr. McGuinness’s revelations that in the Government and Minister Ring have abjectly failed to support its work.

  “This is a major scandal and a damning indictment of Government policy in relation to the West of Ireland and rural communities in general.

  “It is just the latest in a long line of evidence of the failure of Fine Gael, like Fianna Fáil before them, to go beyond rhetoric when it comes to rural and regional development.

  “Big questions will also now be rightly asked of those so-called ‘Independents’ who claim to champion rural Ireland but yet support this regressive government.

  “Minister Michael Ring must make a statement on this immediately and outline what he intends to do to rectify a deeply worrying situation for people in the west of Ireland.”


Fitzmaurice: Coveney must ‘fast-track’ housing


Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has called on Minister Simon Coveney to “fast-track” the building of local authority houses.

  “The paltry figures for the building of local authority houses around the country are shocking in the midst of a major housing emergency” Deputy Fitzmaurice said.

  “The figures show that in the entire country there were just 2,076 local authority houses built in 2016 and they also show that no local authority houses at all were built in Roscommon, Longford and Leitrim in 2016, which is amazing.”

  Deputy Fitzmaurice said that he appreciated that Minister Coveney is “doing his best to sort out this crisis” but the Independent TD feels there are problems within the Department.

  “The systems (within the Department) for dealing with the building of local authority houses are not fit for purpose. Someone will have to get in there and sort it out as soon as possible. There seems to be more interest in completing drawings and filling out forms than in getting the work done.

  “Remember also that apart from anything else, local authorities building houses will also create local employment. The Minister will have to oversee the introduction of a system whereby the building of local authority houses can be fast-tracked. Let’s get on with the work in every county.”


Naughten must act now on post offices’ future – Murphy


Fianna Fáil TD Murphy has criticised Minister for Communications Denis Naughten for “talking in vague terms” about the future of the post office network.

  “Minister Naughten must come forward and identify the new services that he believes should be provided in our post offices to make them viable into the future.”

  Murphy says his constituency colleague needs to “spell out” details of a concrete plan on the under-threat post office network.

  “Rather than talking in vague terms about potential services and e-transactions, the Minister needs to come forward with a list of services with credible projections as to how these services can make the post offices viable and ensure their continued existence.”

  Estimates suggest that almost half the of the country’s 1,100 post are currently not financially viable, and are under threat of closure.

  Deputy Murphy: “The confirmation from the CEO of An Post that 265 post offices are, in his opinion, in areas of no discernible population should be a wake-up call for Minister Naughten, and force an urgent review in Government of what our Post Office network should be used for.

  “The time for decision-making is now; local communities are fearful about the future of their post offices. Minister Naughten must act now.”


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