Sector granted €millions as families given €2 weekly water allowance.

Sligo News File Online.

Predictable changes in the farming were recognised in the Budget with a heavy emphasis on measures aimed at incentivising land transfer and leasing post the ending of the milk quota. Provision was also made for expected volatility with the range for income averaging increased from 3 to 5 years. There was the usual old political guff about the annual turnover and spread of the industry into every boreen of the country, but in the heel of the hunt the measures in the main benefit the larger holding. It’s not something which will come as any great surprise to farmers in Sligo and other counties of the west.

 The minister announced he was:

increasing the income tax exempt thresholds by 50% and introducing a new threshold for leases of 15 years and over;

allowing relief where the lessee is a company;

removing the current 40 years of age threshold for leasing relief;

 His other pronouncements included:

targeting Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) relief for agricultural property to ensure it is used by active farmers;

broadening CGT retirement relief so that individuals can now lease out their land for up to 25 years prior to disposal and still be eligible for CGT retirement relief;

extending CGT retirement relief to land let under conacre, which is disposed of, or converted to long term leasing before the end of 2016;

extending stamp duty relief for non-residential land transfers between certain close relatives;

 removing stamp duty on agricultural leases in excess of 5 years;

extending CGT farm restructuring relief to the end of 2016 and broadening it to allow for restructuring through whole farm replacement.

Income averaging has been increased from 3 to 5 years, and extended to farmers who derive income from another trade or profession, if it relates to on-farm diversification.

Bloodstock and greyhound racing are to receive an ADDITIONAL €6 million a year to the existing fund for three years while further capital of €5 million is awarded to Horse Racing Ireland to leverage investment in race courses.

For those into microbreweries the annual excise relief production ceiling or limit is increased from 20,000 to 30,000 hectolitres.


‘Expedite Programme of Installing Meters On All Users’.

Sligo News File Online.

It is reportedly making much of its robust pre Budget meetings with government, but where over years past was the IFA quite as strong on issues of the tax on the family home, the crazy carbon tax or water charges?

Indeed, was the national farm body’s stance not the very opposite of what it was believed to have been on water charges, for which later the size of the bills became a nightmare for families in rural areas of the west?

We publish below content of a letter the organisation addressed to the Minister Noel Dempsey’s Department of the Environment after the then Fianna Fail government had abolished the charges for domestic water supplies. The letter, dated 18 August 1999, and signed by the secretary of the organisation’s National Industrial & Environmental Committee states: 


IFA Submission on Water Charges
IFA Submission on Water Charges

1. It is IFAs position that all users of water and waste water services, be they domestic or non-domestic should help meet the cost of the provision of these services. It is clearly inequitable for local authorities, government and non-domestic users to meet the full cost of the provision of these services to domestic users while requiring non-domestic and larger commercial/industrial users to meet the capital and operating costs of the provision of services.
2. Charging for water and waste water services should be based on the use of these services by the individuals/companies/households concerned. Accordingly government must expedite its programme of installing metered services on all users, including domestic users.
3. The levying of charges on non domestic users to help meet the capital costs on the provision of services should also be linked to usage.

More recently, a farm body known as the Sligo Farming Platform met with the current chairman of the Sligo IFA, Eddie Davitt in a bid to persuade Sligo IFA to take a stand against the Sligo County Council imposed water levies on the local farming community. Present at the meeting in Cawley’s Hotel, Tubbercurry, were Eddie Davitt, the Chairman of Sligo Farming Platform, Jackie Marren, the acting secretary of Sligo Platform, John Gallagher and Treasurer, Aileen Henry. The meeting lasted almost three hours. No progress was recorded.

Sligo News

More Towns Opting for Drinks Industry Sponsored Purple Flag

Plans for Town Centre ‘Nightlife’ Gathering Momentum.

Sligo News File Online.

The rush to turn town centres into scenes of increased night-time activity is continuing apace.

Central to the drive seems to be a heightened effort to acquire for the locations a drinks industry sponsored emblem commonly referred to as the Purple Flag.

The flag, we are told, is sponsored by drinks giant, Diageo, one of the largest purveyors of alcohol beverages in the world. Its brands include Guinness, Bushmills and Smithwicks.

Descriptions characterise the emblem as “the gold standard for night-time destinations” and “a programme for excellence in the evening and night-time economy which is finding a strong footing in Ireland”

However, a concern is what it actually stands for, if not the further promotion of alcohol consumption in a state where intake of pure alcohol per person is already the second highest of the more than thirty countries of the OECD.

A report by the HSE has put the cost of illnesses, suicides, road accidents, crime, accidents at work, and premature mortality attributable to alcohol abuse in Ireland at 3.7 billion euros in 2007

Should the horrific revelation not have us at least questioning the wisdom of dashing ahead with plans for the use of our town centres as venues for increasing nighttime “economic” activity into the small hours of the morning?

In an attributed statement, a spokesperson for Diageo has said the company “are proud to support the Purple Flag and all that it stands for in our communities.

“It is fantastic to see that more town and city centres are raising the standards and broadening the appeal of their night-time offering.”

What “offering” Diageo is referring to is not expounded on, but there are few town centres in Ireland where pub and hotel life is supplemented with opportunities for early morning visits to art galleries, library services or museums.

There is clearly in all of this a need for a strong awareness of the effect promotion of alcohol consumption has on young people. In a Submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communication, the College of Psychiatrists highlighted the scientific opinion of the ‘Science Group of European Alcohol and Health Forum’ that found “consistent evidence to demonstrate an impact of alcohol advertising on the uptake of drinking among non-drinking young people and increased consumption among existing drinkers.”

The same oireachtas committee also heard of the effect alcohol consumption is already having on Irish society. Alcohol Action Ireland submitted that Ireland, as a country, “has a major alcohol problem with 1,200 deaths per year attributable to abuse”, and that “ten percent of Irish children say their lives have been adversely affected by their parents drinking”. Parental drinking accounts for “one sixth of all cases of child abuse and neglect.” Alcohol, they stated, is “a contributory factor in half of all suicides, and that “the majority of young men who kill themselves are intoxicated.

“There is no product on the planet that causes more deaths and social problem in young men”, the society stressed.

The Irish Cancer Society identified alcohol as “a major risk factor for certain head and neck cancers, particularly mouth cancer, throat cancer and cancer of the larynx (voicebox).

“Alcohol consumption,” said the Society, “can cause cancers of the liver, colon, and rectum in both men and women, and is a cause of breast cancer in women. Three people in Ireland die from oral and pharyngeal cancer (OPC) every week – which is more than skin melanoma or cervical cancer.”

The report warns that “there is no ‘safe’ level of alcoholic drinking.”

Recipients of the UK initiated Purple Flag to date include Dublin, Bray, Killarney, Ennis, Galway and Ballina, in Mayo.

Sligo is one of five applicants at present seeking to secure the flag. According to minutes of a meeting of the now defunct borough council last March, €205,000 had been ‘secured’ at that point for the town programme. It is understood Sligo County Council is also backing the programme with funds provided by the EU.

Sligo News

Irish Suicide Rates Fourth Highest in Europe

Figure “an indictment of government lack of action”, says Sligo Senator


Senator Marc MacSharry
Senator Marc MacSharry

Suicides in Ireland are at a new record level with the country now the fourth highest in Europe for deaths of young men.

According to figures released by the HSE Office for Suicide Prevention, recorded rates for males are highest in the 15 to 19 age group.

It has also been revealed that more than 11,000 people were treated for self-harming last year.

However, despite growing public alarm the government had done little to tackle the crisis, says Sligo-Leitrim senator, Marc Mac Sharry.

Commenting on the latest figures, Senator MacSharry said deaths from suicide every year now equalled the population of an entire village.

The statistics, he said were “an indictment of the government’s lack of action on the issue” and should “act as a wakeup call for Minister Kathleen Lynch and the government as a whole.”

He also accused the government of continually diverting money away from mental health services, and “essentially stalling the ‘Vision for Change’ “

This was not good enough, he said. “Lives are being needlessly lost every day and we continue to pay lip service to something that has reached crisis point in Ireland.”

Fianna Fail had been coming up with what, he said were “tangible policies to address the situation.

“Last year we published the policy document “Actions Speak Louder than Words”, which set out a suggested funding model to resource a robust suicide prevention policy. However, in July this year the Seanad voted down the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Bill 2014, the draft legislation which included provisions to generate sustainable funding for suicide prevention and mental health services.”

Senator MacSharry said there was “an acceptance that more resources are needed to adequately support our mental health services but only the Government has the power to allocate the necessary funds.”

Calling on Ministers Varadkar and Lynch to ensure funding for the services are “ring fenced and protected in the coming budget”, he warned that the crisis “will continue unless sufficient resources are available and maintained.”

Sligo News File Online

‘No Pay for Sex’ – Sinn Fein

Prostitution “a form of men’s violence against women…”

Cllr. Thomas Healy, Sinn Fein.
Cllr. Thomas Healy,
Sinn Fein.

‘No pay for sex’ will be Sinn Fein’s message when party council member, Thomas Healy addresses a meeting of Sligo County Council on Monday.

In a notice of motion, Cllr. Healy will say that the council “recognises that the trafficking, exploitation and abuse of women and girls is taking place in Sligo and throughout the country as a direct result of prostitution.”

He will state that the council understands prostitution to be “a form of men’s violence against women that affects individuals, communities, and society as a whole, and human trafficking for sexual exploitation is a modern form of slavery and an abuse of human rights.”

His overriding concern is for action from the Minister for Justice and Equality who he wants to implement the unanimous recommendation of the Justice Committee for laws “making it an offence to pay for sex…

“This legislation must criminalise the demand for paid sex, decriminalise the seller and provide social supports for those wishing to exit prostitution.

“The council recognises the need for this legislation to be enacted in this jurisdiction, and will convey its views to the Minister for Justice and Equality,” concludes the motion.

A motion tabled by Tubbercurry Fianna Fail member, Cllr. Jerry Lundy will hear him call on the government and “the minister in charge of Community, Rural Affairs and Agriculture” to “help save rural Ireland from devastation.”

He will also be proposing that the minister for Foreign Affairs consider establishing a third passport office to cover the west/north-west and that the office be located in Tubbercurry.

Independent Councillor Margaret Gormley wants to know when promised high speed broadband for 42 rural areas of rural Sligo is going to be rolled out by the government.

Independent member, Cllr. Declan Bree is to ask the CEO “when he intends to provide the council with the report it sought in January…in respect of the legal services provided by the councils’ solicitors and other law agency providers.”

South west Sligo municipal district-based Cllr. Michael Clarke is to ask the executive to seek restoration of the ‘block grant’ to 2009 levels, while council chair, Fianna Fail member Joe Queenan has down for debate the “great hardship” in the farming community arising out of the collapse in cattle prices.

Thousand euro bill for Sligo households

Property tax drives household charges to record high

Joe Queenan
Council chair, Joe Queenan (FF)

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have joined forces to maintain property tax at among the highest levels in the country.

At a meeting of the county council last month members of both parties voted down a notice of motion, tabled by Independent member, Cllr. Declan Bree, which would have allowed families a substantial cut in the rate. They took the decision after hearing an account of the council’s financial position from CEO, Ciaran Hayes.

The move now leaves Sligo householders facing total or combined charges amounting to in the region of €1000 per year for the family home, water rates and the Fianna Fail supported mandatory waste collection services.

The agenda for the September meeting included an item in the name of Cllr. Michael Clarke calling for a 5% hike in the property tax.

Both Cllr. Clarke and Cllr. Margaret Gormley abstained when the vote on the proposed 15% cut in the property tax was taken.

Meanwhile, the council is living with a debt overhang of upwards of €100 million. The prospect of any relief in the form of government funding seems remote, a signal perhaps that next year the vote at council level could be for a substantial increase in the property charge, if not the introduction of an additional new levy.

The prevailing debt is fuelled by among other things the millions of euros that the council has to find for legal fees arising out of the Supreme Court ruling against a resolution of council members relating to rights of way through the Lissadell estate in the north of the county

Back in July, Hayes said he would have difficulty finding funds to maintain road works if members elected to reduce the property tax rate. He said at the time that there were no funds to carry out certain housing activity or the purchase of books for the library.

Despite this, however, the council is planning to embrace a financial partnership arrangement with Knock Regional Airport. It is not yet known what the scale of the investment is destined to run to, or if the arrangement will involve the council sharing responsibility for any existing or future debts of the airport.


Revelatory new book on pivotal point in local history

Terence-Michael Ring
Author, Terry Reilly and Minister of State, Michael Ring at launch of  BALLINA, One Town, Three Wars & More.

World War 1, the War of Independence and the Civil War, all happening within a nine year time frame, form the backdrop to a new book by Ballina author Terry Reilly.

But it’s not all about war – though the struggles are dealt with in graphic details. The narrative covers Ballina and its environs at a pivotal time in Irish history.  All aspects of life and times  are drawn upon to sketch out an enthralling story that will intrigue, enchant,  shock and inform about events that took place between 1880 and 1923.

During this period many of the tattered old buildings were pulled down and rebuilt along the main streets though the poor lived in disease-ridden hovels along many of the lanes.  With over 80 pubs and leading merchants, including Strongs, Laings, Lipton, Hughes, Moyletts, Mullen’s, Strong’s  and Gallagher, Ballina was a busy market town with the contrast between rich and poor stark.

While the have-nots went about barefooted, some merchants  lived in comfort and luxury with private schools for their children.

The political mood was changing, though. The GAA, the Gaelic League, and the Gaelic revival were gaining traction and the mood of locals was becoming much more assured and determined. Strong characters were emerging.

The Volunteers were parading in defence of Home Rule but many of them found themselves in the trenches of WW1. Some did not return: in fact the number of fatalities from the vicinity numbered over 200.

The War of Independence followed  and then the  bitterly divisive Civil War with its bank raids, ambushes and diametrically opposed views . Anecdotes garnered from senior citizens over the ears enliven the narrative over 432 compelling pages.

Ballina – One Town, Three Wars & More casts a wide net around the vicinity, reaching to Foxford, Crossmolina/Lahardane, the ambush at Glenamoy in which many died during the Civil War, Enniscrone and West Sligo – Ox Mountains, setting fore to Enniscrone coastguard station, Corballa ambush, McGuinness (Carns) shooting, etc.

A feature of the book is QR coding which allows the reader to step back in time to experience some of the events described in the book through smart ‘phones. 

From research for this 432 page hardcover blockbuster came inspiration for the play We’ll be Home Before Christmas – the narrative of a town and the trenches during WW1 – which will be performed in Ballina Arts Theatre.

A prolific writer and historian, the former managing editor of the Western People is also the author of ‘On A Wing and A Prayer,’ the story of legendry Mayo churchman, Monsignor James Horan who overcame impossible odds to construct an international airport at Knock, and ‘Dear Old Ballina’ a history of the North mayo capital.

His other works include ‘The Green Above The Red,’ the history of Mayo GAA, ‘The Goal of Victory,’ a history of the Ballina Stephenites, ‘Amazing Mayo Stories,’ ‘A Rambling Tour Through Dear Old Ballina,’ a musical based on ‘A Wing and A Prayer,’ which has raised more than €200,000 for the Mayo/Roscommon  Hospice,  a DVD : ‘Ballina, The Town We Love So Well,’ and a play: ‘We’ll Be Home Before Christmas,’ based on his book surrounding events of World War1.

He was the inaugural winner of the John Healy award  for highlighting lopsided development biased against the west of Ireland, has been recognized as a Champion of the West by the International Humbert Summer School, and is a recipient of the GAA McNamee media award. 

Minister under fire on future of Irish beef industry

Fianna Fail demand fresh government action on worsening crisis in beef sector.

The government is facing fresh pressure to tackle issues surrounding the crisis imperilling the future of the country’s beef trade.

Speaking following a meeting of meat processors and representatives of the farming industry in Carrick-On-Shannon earlier this week, Fianna Fail Senator, Marc MacSharry said the government’s “head in the sand” approach to the crisis must not be allowed to continue.

He said “A series of tangible initiatives must now be pursued to address the crisis so a fairer return for the farm families of Ireland can be achieved.”

Senator MacSharry said that while it was acknowledged the problem was of a nationwide reach the situation had been “further exacerbated in Connaught/Ulster counties where holdings are smaller, winters longer and land is of poorer quality.”

Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, he said “has recently reiterated his hands off approach by calling for little more than supermarkets, processors and farm organisations to communicate with one another.

“If this is the extent of the minister’s vision for the industry then I fear for our export trade.

“We need a hands-on, pro active minister who is prepared to get on a plane and personally engage with decision makers in the relevant sectors to grow our beef export markets and potential.”

He said that at this week’s meeting it was agreed Fianna Fail representatives “will meet with individual processors and supermarket multiples to persuade them to relax the four movement rule and prohibitive treatment of so-called nomadic cattle.

“This will enhance cross border trade where a 30% exchange rate uplift can give northern buyers bigger spending power while securing good value for good quality animals.

“The move would increase competition and consequently give a better return to farming families in the south.

“The multiples need to be made aware of the need to pass their margin back to the farmer through the processor. Currently, the farmer to consumer price differential is between 325 and 1,550%.

“It is surely reasonable for farmers to receive a fairer return for their efforts.”

The senator said it was also agreed at the meeting to identify all international markets which currently restrict the import of Irish beef of under 30 months and proactively seek to meet ambassadors of each of the countries to have the age limit raised to at least 48 months.

“The 30 month restriction is a BSE era legacy which is no longer necessary with the eradication of BSE.

“To date, engagement on this issue is superficial between Irish authorities and their counterparts in other markets with potential for Irish beef export growth. A more hands-on and proactive role must be taken by Minister Coveney and his government.

“We must also begin the process of seeking to have beef produced north and south of the border marketed as an all island product rather than of mixed origin. It will be difficult and  require inter agency, state and department unanimity on regulatory and quality controls together with appropriate global marketing.

“This would ensure that the international buyers recognise product from the island of Ireland as the safest and best. It would also help the market on both sides of the border.

“The head in the sand approach to Ireland’s beef crisis must not be allowed to continue.”

The senator said it was is clear from the department’s Market Access Document that “the superficial approach of merely sending emails to seek improvements to current restrictions will never produce the necessary results.

“We need,” he said, “a hands-on, pro active minister who is prepared to get on a plane and personally engage with decision makers in the relevant markets to grow our beef export markets and potential.”