The 300th anniversary of the founding of Ballina

Plans for a year-long celebration

Sligo News File

An enterprising Ballina group has set themselves the weighty task of laying the groundwork for a year-long festival focused on celebrating the 300th anniversary of the formal establishment of the town. By any reckoning, a surely huge undertaking.

As chronicled in the excellently researched work published by noted historian Terry Reilly under the title Dear Old Ballina, the town, originally known as Belleek, dates from around 1375 when an Augustinian friary was established. However, the plans rolled out by the recently formed Ballina group are centred on its believed formal foundation in 1723 which, Reilly relates, was when Lord Tyrawley “brought a large number of skilled flax and linen workers to the town. To accommodate the influx small cottages were erected at Bunree, extending up the incline towards Ardnaree, and adjacent to the mill which had been built on Bunree River.”

The nearly 450-page historical record includes a foreword by Ballina-born President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.

Chairman of the anniversary steering group Jarlath Munnelly said the upcoming event, scheduled for 2023, “is an exciting opportunity for a year-long celebration – a chance for our community to come together and create an ambitious, diverse and inclusive calendar of events that includes everyone.”

The group has on board members representing Mayo County Council, Moy Valley Resources IRD, Ballina Chamber of Commerce, Mayo North Tourism, and Ballina Lions Club and will aim to facilitate and empower citizens of the town to take an active role in planning events.

All groups/organisations in the town are being urged to consider staging an event of their own that can be included in the programme of events.

As well, anyone interested in helping with event planning, community engagement, marketing and PR, fundraising, governance and the creation of a town vision is invited to register their interest through the email address



Walkers in UK fined and reportedly told hot drinks ‘classed as a picnic’

Police insisted trip ‘not in the spirit’ of the Covid lockdown rules

Sligo News File

A stroll in the English countryside cost two women carrying hot drinks dearly. Each was fined £200.

According to accounts, the two friends had driven five miles to walk in an open space in Derbyshire when they were “surrounded” by police, read their rights and slapped with fixed penalty notices of €200 each. One of them told the BBC that officers stated hot drinks they had with them were not allowed because they were “classed as a picnic.”  

Existing UK Covid lockdown guidance says people there can travel for exercise in their local area but, the report goes, police insisted that the trip made by the two walkers was ‘not in the spirit’ of the rules.

The action of the police has been criticised by civil liberties and other groups.




Covid-19 spreading at a gallop

South African variant also now in Ireland

Sligo News File

Covid-19 cases have shot to a sweeping high with 8,248 new cases recorded in just the last 24 hours alone.

The Department of Health has also confirmed that in the same 24 hours 20 people have tragically died from the disease.

Overall, the death toll now stands at 2,327 while cases to date have rocketed to 135,884

Adding to the country’s health woes, three cases of a new variant of Covid-19 recently identified in South Africa have been confirmed here.

“All of the cases identified are directly associated with recent travel from South Africa,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan. Persons who have travelled from South Africa should, he said, self isolate for 14 days and seek testing through a GP as soon as possible.


Small scale Sligo and Leitrim projects granted funding under the Town and Villages Renewal Scheme

Projects nominated by local authorities

Sligo News File

Seven towns in Sligo are to receive funding under the Town and Villages Renewal Scheme. The total allocation is €670,000, averaging out at just over €90,0000 each for Enniscrone, Tubbercurry, Carraroe, Ballisodare, Drumcliffe, Ballymote and Rosses Point.

Leitrim has been awarded €645,000, or around €107,000 each for the six towns of Carrick on Shannon, Drumshanbo, Jamestown, Dowra, Rooskey and Carrigallen.


Revaccination against Covid ‘every 6 months’ warning

Longevity of vaccine protection not known says UK Health Secretary

Sligo News File

Will Ireland have to take steps similar to the UK where Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned it may be necessary for people there to be ‘revaccinated’ against Covid every 6 months?

Hancock told a select committee hearing that he anticipated there will probably be a need to revaccinate “because we don’t know the longevity of the protection from these vaccines. It might need to be every six months, it might need to be every year.” He also warned that there was “absolutely no doubt” vaccines and testing will still be on the agenda next year.

As Ireland’s Covid emergency worsens, the National Public Health Emergency Team – NPHET – last night confirmed that a further 7,836 cases of the disease and 17 deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours.  



Approval of Moderna vaccine welcome but rollout in nursing homes needs to be stepped up rapidly: Kenny

‘Serious concerns as several nursing homes experiencing new Covid outbreaks’

Sligo News File.

Martin Kenny, TD
Sinn Fein Spokesman for Justice

Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Justice, Martin Kenny TD, has welcomed the approval of the Moderna vaccine with a call for the rollout of the vaccine in nursing homes to be stepped up rapidly.

Describing the approval of the vaccine as a welcome and important development in the battle against Covid-19, he said clear and transparent information was now needed on the timeline.

“How many doses will arrive? And when they will be administered?”

There are, he said, “serious concerns now as several nursing homes are experiencing new outbreaks.

“The vaccine rollout in nursing homes must be stepped up rapidly.

“There are also serious concerns that outbreaks in nursing homes might hinder the rollout of the vaccine in those homes.”

He said the HSE had today confirmed to Sinn Fein Health Spokesperson David Cullinane, that “they will move from 5-day a week, to 7-day a week rollout of the vaccine in nursing homes, and importantly that it won’t be delayed where there are positive cases.

“A new timeline for vaccine rollout to healthcare workers and nursing home residents needs to happen very quickly,” he said, adding, “we also need to see more detail around the necessary staffing levels and the timeline for rollout to other groups across society.”

Tighter curbs on movement as Covid continues rampage across the country

Huge spike in cases and deaths



Sligo News File

A sweeping clampdown on the movement of people looks imminent as the government seems to believe the only way to control the spread of the Covid-19 is to confine people to their homes.

Schools are to be closed, building sites shut down, many businesses forced to cease regular trading as well as restrictions on travellers arriving in Ireland – the measures to apply throughout this month. A curfew may, too, be on the cards at some point.

GAA authorities have meanwhile informed clubs that no collective training is allowed during January and reportedly warned that breaches of the instruction could result in suspension or expulsion.

It is no secret that the virus is out of control and may also have along as its mate, the more aggressive mutant strain of the disease that has UK health authorities in a near state of panic. The toll of 5,325 cases and 17 deaths, with cases and deaths rising daily, points up the gravity of the threat facing the country here.

Already, locally, Sligo County Council has taken the initiative to ban access to a number of public amenities. A statement from the council says the authority is “working with An Garda Siochana” to block public entry to beaches at Rosses point, Cullenamore, Mullaghmore, Streedagh and Enniscrone. This is to prevent large numbers of persons from congregating in the various amenities. Other Sligo places ruled out of bounds to the public include Half-Moon Bay in Hazelwood, Dooney Rock, Slish Wood, Union Wood, the Benbulben scenic walk at Gortarowey, Mitchell Curley Park and Strandhill Promenade.

On RTE’s Prime Time this evening, Niall Collins, a minister of State said a ban on the click and collect business service  was “about shutting down the movement and mobility of people.” Where at all possible, he said, people should avoid leaving home – an indication of the seriousness with which the rapidly spreading pandemic is being viewed by government




Concerns over breaches of 5km restrictions.

Sligo News File.

Beaches are closed.


Sligo County Council is restricting access to a number of public amenities including beaches in a bid, they say, to halt the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

A statement on the Council’s website reads: “Arising from concerns expressed by the Government and HSE on the ‘rampant transmission of the Covid-19 virus’ in the community, a number of measures are being introduced in the interests of public health and safety. Concerns have risen over the weekend of large numbers of people travelling beyond the 5km limit to exercise and social distancing not been adhered to.

“Sligo County Council is working with An Gárda Siochána to restrict access to amenity areas across the county in order to prevent large numbers congregating, including Enniscrone, Mullaghmore, Streedagh, Culleenamore, and Rosses Point beaches.  Other amenities affected include Half-Moon Bay in Hazelwood, Dooney Rock, Slish Wood, and Union Wood, Benbulben scenic walk at Gortarowey, Mitchell Curley Park and Strandhill Promenade.  

“We hope that these actions will prevent further widespread community transmission and aid in all of efforts to save lives,” the statement adds.

Castleconnor GAA team of the past


The Castleconnor GAA senior team pictured before lining out for an encounter 64 years ago, in 1957, at Maye’s field in Rathglass.

Front- left to right – Sean Finnerty, Christy Barrins (RIP) Jim Curran, Joe McManamon, Liam Boland, Edward Forde (RIP) Martin (Atty) Boland (RIP)

Back: Seamus Barrins (RIP) Bert Barrins, Paddy McHale (RIP) John Reape, Paddy Maye, Leo Boland, Joe Finnerty (RIP) and Leo Flynn

It would be many more years before the foundations were laid for the registration of a GAA club and construction of a sports centre in the West Sligo parish. 

Basta under new ownership

Company acquired by Dublin construction materials group.

Sligo News File

Tubbercurry-based door lock and handle manufacturer Basta has been sold, two years after the Ardale Group purchased the company out of examinership in 2018.

The firm, which was established by the Gallagher Brothers in 1955 is understood to have been acquired by the Dublin headquartered construction materials group, Laydex Building Solutions. Details of the price have not been disclosed.

Laydex, founded in 1995, supplies roofing, flooring, fire protection, radon and gas equipment and other products to the construction industry.

It’s believed staff  at Basta are to be retained under the new ownership


The Best of Sligo Weekender

Compilation of social accounts featuring notable Sligo people whose lives and contributions help foster the distinctive character of North West.

Sligo News File.

New to the bookshops: The Best of Sligo Weekender is a selection of compelling social stories about some of the remarkable men and women who, as the book relates, make the North West such a special place.

Published by the popular Sligo Weekender, the truly unputdownable read features engrossing accounts gleaned from interviews with many of the engaging figures it has encountered over the years. Brilliantly written, the nearly 300 page work has been put together and distributed by the Weekender team, a weekly now proudly standing as one of the very few privately owned regional newspapers in the country.  

Copies of the book are on sale in bookshops or may be obtained from the offices of the Sligo Weekender at Innisfree House, 44-45 High Street, Sligo F91 WC79.

The good news is that production of a second publication, Volume 2 is being considered for release sometime in the future.

A contribution from the proceeds of the current publication is being made to the important suicide prevention work of North West STOP.


Johnson applying for French citizenship – father of British PM says mother born in France

The former MEP opposed the ‘leave’ campaign in the UK’s 2016 EU referendum.

Sligo News File

Stanley Johnson.

As the UK celebrates its restored independence from the EU it looks that some high-profile figures are seeking citizenship of countries within the Union, one of the latest, it’s said, the father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Stanley Johnson, according to reports has announced that he’s applying for citizenship of France.

The 80-year-old author, a former MEP has been speaking on French radio about his family’s ties with République française, saying his mother was born in France with a French lineage extending back to her grandfather.

 He voted against the ‘leave’ campaign in the UK’s 2016 EU referendum.

Applications for Irish passports from UK citizens have soared from 7,372 in 2015 to 54,859 in 2019. 

UK passport holders will be subject to new EU restrictions after Britain formally withdraws from the bloc this evening.

‘Possibility of restoring water charges should be explored – Green Minister

Charges were dropped following national campaign against the levies.

 People already being hit with massive Local Property Tax and wave of carbon levies on heating oil, gas, turf, petrol, diesel, oil and much else.

People Power – Remember it?


Sligo News File.

Water charges which met with almost countrywide resistance when hundreds of thousands took to the streets to oppose them may be on the way back.

Although the threat stands inactive, it now seems a Green member of the government is reportedly proposing a revival of the abhorred payment regime.

From a report in the Sunday Independent, it appears the national water utility, Irish Water is encountering some problems in carrying out its work programme, a situation which has apparently led to a junior Green minister in the government housing department commenting that the ‘possibility of water charges should be explored’ within the term of the current administration.

It looks that the Green minister believes the issue could be put to the people during a referendum which is to be run to lock the national water utility into public ownership. Irish Water was established in 2013.

As of now, water connections to domestic dwellings or new builds can cost thousands of euro, with the price depending on the distance the connection is from the mains. Under the old private group water scheme, connections were made from, in cases, as low as only €700, many times less than today’s level – and without a stack of bureaucratic requirements to contend with.  

Irish Water is a subsidiary of Ervia, a multi-utility semi-state company involved in the distribution of water services, pipeline natural gas and dark fibre services in Ireland. Ervia and Irish Water have separate boards of directors. The current executive members of Irish Water are:

Cathal Marley (Chairman and Ervia Group CEO)
Eamon Gallen (General Manager Irish Water)
Niall Gleeson (Managing Director Irish Water
Yvonne Harris (Irish Water)
Brendan Murphy (Ervia)
Maria O’Dwyer(Irish Water)

Ervia consists of ten non-executive directors who are appointed by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, currently Daragh O’Brien, Fianna Fail. 

The members of the Ervia board, are:

Tony Keoghane (Chairman)
Cathal Marley
Chris Banks
Fred Barry
Celine Fitzgerald
Keith Harris
Sean Hogan
Mari Hurley
Finbar Kennelly and
Joe O’Flynn.

As well, Ervia has four board committees:

Keith Harris (Chairperson) Fred Barry (Chairperson) Tony Keohane (Chairperson) Celine Fitzgerald (Chairperson)
Mari Hurley Cathal Marley Mari Hurley Joe O’Flynn
Finbarr Kennelly Chris Banks Finbarr Kennelly Fred Barry
Sean Hogan Joe O’Flynn Keith Harris Keith Harris
      Chris Banks

According to the Ervia 2018 report, there were 822 employees aboard Irish Water. The 2019 report states that 574 employees in Central Services also supply services to Irish Water.

Ervia has a team of 11 executives:

Cathal Marley, Group Chief Executive,
Niall Gleeson, Managing Director,
Orlath Blaney, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer,
Liam O’Riordan, Company Secretary,
Michael G. O’Sullivan, Director of Business Services,
Brendan Murphy, Group Commercial Regulatory Director,
Claire Madden, Chief Legal Officer,
DawnO’Driscoll, Group HR Director,
Denis O’Sullivan, Managing Director, Gas Networks,
Ronan Galwey, Acting Group Finance Director and
Liam O’Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer

The managing director of Irish Water is believed to be on a salary of €200,000. Pay of senior staff reportedly is from €200,000 to €99,000, depending on work responsibilities. For some other employees, the rate varies from €50,000 to €100,000 while on the lower end of the Irish Water scale the rate is up to €39,000. All but a few are also on performance-related bonuses.

Danger EU heading to be ‘economic and technological backwater…’ warns Neil

The EU is at risk of collapse, says former editor of The Sunday Times and long-time BBC political presenter Andrew Neil.

Reportedly responding to a tweet that Britain will rejoin the Union at some future date,  Neil has said in a post:

“There’s a real danger that the EU will be an economic and technological backwater in 15 years time and today’s young Brits will be doing flourishing business in Hanoi and Djakarta. This summer Asian GDP over took the rest of the world put together.”

Andrew Neil @afneil