Community news: West Kerry

In a mass movement akin to the migration of wildebeest on the Serengeti, locals will flock home next weekend to attend the annual Dingle Races where they will meet distant relatives, renew acquaintances and bet on horses they know nothing about.

What makes Dingle Races special is the place it holds in the hearts of local people as a highlight of their social and cultural year. If you're from, or attached to, Dingle, chances are you'll have some association with the races. That's why people put a Dingle Races sticker on their D-reg cars to preserve them from the indignity of being mistaken for a tourist.

For race commentator Thomas O'Callaghan, Dingle Races is more a living entity than an event and the people who go there an extended family connected by a thread of tradition.

"As Carl O'Flaherty says 'you could meet somebody in London or Boston and they'd say, I'll see you at the races. It's in our dúchas and an important link for locals who like to come home, meet up with people they haven't seen for a while, and reminisce," said Thomas.

Locals aside, Dingle Races is the premier event of the year for the horse and pony racing fraternity and, for them, "a win at Dingle is something that keeps them going through the winter", according to Thomas.

"The Dingle Derby is like the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I'd regard it as the most coveted prize on the horse and pony circuit in Ireland and one that's very difficult for a title holder to defend," said Thomas who described the punishing track at Ballintaggart as "a real test of horses… any chinks in the armour will be exposed there".

That said, Thomas fancies the title holder 'Mr Bowen', who has been showing great form around the country this year, to win next Sunday's Derby. For the first time, this year's derby runners will carry no weight penalty for wins on the Friday and Saturday of Dingle Races and Thomas sees this move as something that will add hugely to the competitiveness of the weekend's racing.

Dingle Races has also proved a great training ground for up-and-coming young jockies. Denis Mullins, Barry Geraghty, Oisin Murphy from Killarney, Conor King and other who have gone on to professional careers have all cut their teeth in Ballintaggart but none have impressed as much as local lad Jack Kennedy.

"I don't think we'll see his likes again. He's the most gifted horseman I've ever seen. He has a natural telepathy with horses and if he stays injury free he'll be a big name for many years," said Thomas.

Dingle Races comes about as a result of a lot of hard, and mostly unseen, work by the race committee, led by Colm Sayers who is in his first year as Chairman and taking up the role previously held by his father, Mike. This week Colm is working on preparing the track, Denis Murphy and the finance committee are gathering funding for the races, Thomas and Tom Browne are dealing with race declarations. Come the weekend they won't be going to the races for entertainment.

"People ask if you enjoy the races but you don't really enjoy them. You see them going on around you and you enjoy when everything goes well."

Census figures show less people are speaking Irish

Whether Irish will survive as a living language in Corca Dhuibhne is a question that can be asked following the publication of the small area census figures by the CSO last month.

According to the 2016 census, the number of Irish speakers who use Irish on a daily basis outside the education system in West Kerry has fallen since the last census was taken in 2011.

Apart from Dún Chaoin which has seen a rise in the number of daily users, with a 1.4% increase from 58.6% to 60%, all other areas west of Dingle have experienced a reduction. The Gaeltacht strongholds of Cill Chuáin and Marthain are shown to be dramatically affected with the number of people who stated that they use Irish on a daily basis, shrinking by 11.3% and 7.3% respectively.

The figures from Dingle town paint a similar picture with the number of people declaring for Irish falling now standing at 13.6%, which is a 3.55% drop on the 2011 census figures.

However, people who are involved in the Irish language say that they hear more Irish spoken in Dingle town than previously, despite the figures.

Páidí Ó Sé, bainisteoir of CFCD, the co-ordinators of the Language Plan for the West Kerry Gaeltacht is clear that the situation facing the language is serious and is equally clear on the three areas that they have identified as crucial to halt its attrition.

Firstly, "Caithfidh tuismitheoirí cinneadh a dhéanamh" Without Irish in the home, it will be impossible to sustain Irish as the language of the community. Their 'Tus Maith' scheme provides support to families who wish to rear their children in Irish or use more Irish in the home. Education is the second pillar, according to Páidí, and this is partially addressed with the implementation of the new Policy for Education in the Gaeltacht, requiring total immersion of infant classes in the language. Thirdly they aim to establish an Irish speaking activity centre for 8 - 16 year olds.

An Lab, the Irish language arts centre, tasked with developing an Irish language plan for Dingle town, expressed disappointment at the drop in the number of Irish speakers but they are also aware that many townspeople are very anxious about the state of the language in the town.

Working with a local committee, they are currently engaging in research and questionnaires are available in both banks and the Credit Union in Dingle. In the course of their research they report experiencing a lot of goodwill and co-operation.

The local committee are: Micheál Ó Coileáin, Helena Curran, Micheál (Murt) Ó Muircheartaigh, Risteard Mac Liam and Annette Cremin as well as Simon Ó Faoláin and Áine Moynihan of An Lab. The website which is under construction is

Cake sale organisers appreciate support

The organisers of the recent, highly successful, cake sale in aid of St. Mary's of the Angels in Beaufort wish to thank everyone who contributed, bought cakes, gave donations or in anyway supported this very worthwhile cause to shore up cuts in funding made to this highly respected residential home and facility.

The support provided by the management and staff in Gairdín Mhuire is very much appreciated.

Appeal to local businesses to help keep our coastline clean

Businesses in Dingle are being invited to take part in a campaign to protect the shores of Dingle Bay from unsightly sanitary items that pass through the sewage system.

Think Before You Flush is a public awareness campaign about the problem sanitary products and other items can cause in our marine environment and our wastewater systems if they are flushed down the toilet. The campaign is being run by An Taisce's Clean Coasts programme and is supported by Irish Water.

More than half the people in Ireland use the toilet system for disposing of items that cannot be processed in the sewage treatment plant or will not breakdown in a septic tank, according to research carried out by An Taisce.

Aware of the impact that tourism can have on the marine environment, Dingle Tidy Towns and the Dingle Aquarium are actively promoting the Think Before You Flush campaign. The Skellig Hotel & Benner's Hotel are placing information cards in all of their bedrooms and a number of B&B's in the town are also displaying them.

Certain items such as nappies, face wipes, and female sanitary products can and do cause serious (and costly) blockages in the home or in the local drainage system. These as well as smaller items such as bandages, cigarette butts, cotton buds and tampon applicators can also pass through the system into the marine environment resulting in damage to various wildlife and the familiar unsightly marine litter that washes up on beaches and shores.

Septic tanks are also affected, the tank may cease to operate effectively with a build up of these items. Toilet paper is the only thing that can be safely flushed down the toilet apart from human waste. There is no such thing as a flushable wipe.

Dingle is one of nine communities around the country that have adopted the Think before you Flush campaign. Other towns are Bettystown, Balbriggan, Wexford town, Tramore, Ballycotton, Galway town, Virginia and Birr.

Any businesses who are interested can pick up the cards from the Tourist Office at the Quay. More information on the campaign can be found on

Call for donations to help furnish ÓCriomthan’s island home

Ionad an Bhlascaoid has put out a call for items that can be used to furnish the Blasket Island home of An tOileanach, Tomás Ó Criomthain.

The house on the Great Blasket, which is being restored, requires furniture of the time to present an authentic representation of the surroundings within which his life was lived.

Even though Ó Criomthain's books survive to provide a first hand account of the life of his family and neighbours, the furniture has not fared so well.

"We have refurbished a dresser for the house and now we are looking for tables, chairs and a settle bed" said Donncha Ó Conchúir, Stiúrthóir at Ionad an Bhlascaoid. "If people have any of these to sell or donate, just e-mail us a picture of the item to or telephone 066-915644".

Lios Póil set out its stall with a festival that few can match

For variety, imagination, innovation, entertainment, community involvement and general good craic it would be hard to find a local festival anywhere to match Féile Lios Póil.

Locals traverse the country, cross seas and come down from the hills to take part in the festival that started on Friday night, but on Saturday morning the focus was on going up the hills - one in particular, the ominously steep Stricín that towers over the parish of Lios Póil.

Under a warm sun, 42 contestants set off at a trot up 'the coarse field' towards the summit of the Stricín where the first man and woman to reach the peak would earn the titles of Rí and Banríon an Stricín.

The kingship came to Ronán Ó Grifín after a breathless dash of just 18 minutes and 14 seconds and in gaining the crown he set a record by claiming the title of Rí an Stricín for a third time. Each success seems to have put an extra spring in Ronán's step because this year he knocked a few seconds off his 2013 time of 18:28 and that in turn was faster than his 2010 time of 20:05.

The woman crowned this year's Banríon an Stricín was Fionnuala Uí Dheasmhúnaigh who scaled the mountain in 22:37, arriving at the top almost four minutes after her son, Feargal, who was the fastest of the under-16 boys and second overall in a time of 18:50.

Away from the Stricín, Halla John L. and the local sportsfield became the focus of events on Sunday. The planned sports events - otherwise known as the Lios Póil Olympics - had to be postponed until Tuesday because of the afternoon's persistent rain but the sheep show went ahead regardless. Sheep farmers take no notice of the rain!

The weather that forced everyone indoors meant the hall became a hubbub of activity. Ray and Marilyn O'Farrell's bric-a-brac stall did a great trade - proceeds of which will help fund both the festival and Cailíní Chorca Dhuibhne - while the flower displays, art, crafts, bakery, a children's feis and various other displays were appreciated by a bigger audience than they might see on a fine day.

No rain and a glimmer of sun encouraged the crowds to re-emerge for Siúlóid na Féile on the bank holiday Monday with some 200 hiking around Ceann an Daimh while 100 more walked the roads from Cinn Áird to Garraí na dTor in memory of Tomás Ághas and for the more immediate benefit or the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association.

Activities continue this week with the contest to grow a moustache in the likeness of Tomás Ághas's whiskers set to be one of the highlights. About 16 local men have been cultivating an Ashe 'tashe over the past couple of months and the results of their efforts will be judged by local hairdressers in O'Sullivan's pub, Garraí na dTor, tonight (Wednesday) at 10.30pm.

On Thursday activities continue at 7.30pm with a 'cic glic' contest that can be won by kicking a football from Gráig to Páirc Peile Lios Póil with the least number of kicks. Afterwards there's a table quiz (for teams of four) in O'Sullivan's pub at 8.30pm. Local knowledge is helpful here… and if they ask who's the Pearsa na Féile, it's Roibeard Ó Cathasaigh

The story of German warplane crashes in Kerry

Wreckage lying on remote Kerry hillsides still recalls the wartime aircraft crashes that gave a glimpse into the grim reality of the conflict engulfing distant Europe from 1939 to 1945. An air of mystery continues to surround those dramatic incidents - the dead, the survivors and what later became of them.

Historian Justin Horgan will delve into this unique area of local history when he delivers an illustrated lecture on German Luftwaffe crashes in Kerry during World War II at a lecture to be hosted by the Dingle Historical Society on August 15.

Mr Horgan specialises in German World War Two military history and is co-author of the book Luftwaffe Eagles Over Ireland - The Story of German Air Crashes over Neutral Ireland 1940-1945. His talk will cover the FW200 Condor crash on Faha ridge, Mount Brandon; BV138 Flying Boat forced landing near Blaskets; Heinkel 111 crash in Kemare Bay; Heinkel 111 crash near Skelligs and the Junkers 88 in Mastergeehy bog.

He will give an overview of the general situation in Ireland when war clouds were gathering over Europe and neutral Ireland was about to feel the effects of the conflict that lay ahead.

Mr Horgan, who has met several German war veterans who have contributed material to his archives, will also cover the lives of some of the crash survivors after the war.

The lecture in the Skellig Hotel, Dingle, starts at 8pm on Tuesday, August 15, and all are welcome.

Rás an Stricín results

Men: 1, Ronán Ó Grifín (18:14); 2, Deaglán Ó Deargán (20:17); 3, Jonathan Ó Dochartaigh (22:56).

Women: 1, Fionnuala Uí Dheasmhúnaigh (22:37); 2, Julie Nic Giolla Geimhridh (32:30); 3, Aoife Ní Mhuirí (37:24).

Girls Under-16: 1, Neasa Ní Aiiniféin (25:30); 2, Aisling Ní Ainiféin (31:12); 3, Ella Ní Ainiféin (38:34).

Boys Under-16: 1, Feargal Ó Deasmhúnaigh (18:50); 2, James Harrison (21:55); 3, Daniel Harrison (26:30).