Community news: West Kerry

Declan Malone & Joan Maguire

The first two weeks of growing a moustache are the most difficult, or so it was said by the group who gathered to surrender their moustaches to the clippers on Saturday night.

Organised by David Russell Construction, a group of over 30 men joined the West Kerry Movember challenge, topped off with a public shearing in Quinn's pub, Ventry, on Saturday night to raise funds for the Kerry Cork Health Link Bus. David Russell was well-pleased with the support gathered both through the number of people who took part and the amount of money donated to support the health link bus service.

The Kerry Cork Health Link bus provides a vital service for Kerry poeple undergoing treatment in Cork. Laurence Courtney took the bus to Cork when receiving treatment and happily joined the Movember challenge, personally gathering €1,200 for the cause.

Over €8,000 was raised through a combination of facebook fundraising, cash donations and ticket sales for the draw held on Saturday night in Quinn's and run by Fear a tí Muiris Ó Fiannachta.

In the main the Movembers were happy to say goodbye to their whiskers.


HSE’s claim that hospital has ample beds is rejected

A claim by the HSE that the demand for care in West Kerry is being met by the current number of beds in Dingle Community Hospital has been rejected as not reflecting the reality that families find it extremely difficult to get elderly people accepted into the hospital.

The hospital has been operating at eight beds below its full 54-bed capacity since it was first opened in 2010. Following protracted negotiations with both the health watchdog HIQA and the INMO nurses' union, the HSE secured agreement in February 2017 to open eight additional beds to bring the hospital up to its full 54-bed capacity, but this was dependent on the recruitment of additional staff.

For nearly two years the HSE has been trying to recruit nurses and nursing assistants for the hospital but with no success. As a result the promised eight extra beds have remained closed and this problem has been compounded by the more recent closure of five of the existing beds because of staff shortages.

With the hospital now operating at 13 beds below its full capacity The Kerryman posed a series of questions to the HSE asking about the progress of the recruitment campaign. In response the HSE issued a statement last week saying that: "Although not all beds are open at West Kerry Community Hospital, it is important to point out that there is no waiting list for beds at the community hospital, either long-stay or short-stay. The demand for care in the area is being met by the current number of beds."

The HSE statement added that, "we continue to recruit at West Kerry Community Hospital, continuing on extensive efforts to attract staff to the area".

The HSE also confirmed that "recruitment is about to begin for a Director of Nursing and a nurse manager" for the hospital.

Commenting on the HSE's response, Cllr Seamus Cosaí Mac Gearailt said this week that there is abundant evidence of people unsuccessfully seeking to get a bed in Dingle Hospital.

"I realise that that they're trying to recruit staff, but I don't agree that there is an adequate number of beds in the hospital," he said. "There's a huge demand for beds from the local area… you would regularly hear people complaining about how difficult it is to get into Dingle Hospital."

Many elderly local people who are currently resident in nursing homes and hospitals outside of West Kerry would love to get back to Dingle but they can't because there is no space for them in the hospital, he said.

"Maybe they [the HSE] had enough beds on the day the statement was written," he added.


Stars in the making play their hearts out to Dingle audiences

Main Street Dingle was lined with trucks, vans and taxis from early on Monday morning as the cast, crew and participants in Other Voices decamped from the town.

Music industry professionals as well as local hired hands stacked and dispatched the seemingly never ending tons of equipment that were hired in for the weekend. Music filled the town, pubs, hotels and restaurants hosted musicians with names most of the residents had never heard of, but as has happened in the past with acts such as Hozier they were here before they became household names.

Dingle businesses adapted and catered to the influx of mostly 20 to 40 year olds, restaurants moving onto the street as take-away food was most suited to the energetic youth, packing in as much of the music trail as they could. On Saturday evening the jam packed Fish box saw 'The Prince'(Cú na Mara skipper Michael Flannery) in a rush to replenish the fish stocks. Judging by the bins on the side of the street the favourite daytime drink was coffee, with Bean in Dingle coffee shop reportedly taking orders for collection up to 20 minutes later.

With some exceptions the musicians played one- hour sets, stars in the making with a shared passion for making music and performing. The genres stretched from traditional music to house with a touch of blues in the mix.

Other Voices is a weekend fuelled and formed by the vision of Philip King and Nuala O'Connor, both have dedicated their lives to breathing new life into the presentation and role of Irish culture within the wider world. They have attracted influential people and international corporations to this view and they continue to gather a following for what they do.

At the Ireland's Edge conference run as part of other Voices, the appointment of Philip King as Adjunct Professor by Dublin City University's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences was warmly received, echoing the respect in which he is held.

On Monday morning, his daughters Molly and Juno stood outside Benner's saying goodbye to the stars and the crews, the next generation of the King-O'Connor family ready to pick up the reins.


Fitzgeralds to battle for council seat

West Kerry men Cllr Seamus Cosaí Mac Gearailt and Breandán Fitzgerald will be among the candidates vying for the three available seats in the Dingle Electoral Area at the next local elections, which are to be held May 2019.

The Fianna Fáil party has not yet officially chosen its Dingle Electoral Area candidates but that will be done at a meeting to be held in Milltown next Monday, December 10. The convention will select two candidates and as there are only two nominees - Breandán Fitzgerald and Cllr Michael D O'Shea from Milltown - the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Breandán lost out on a council seat in the 2014 local elections when the Dingle Peninsula was included in the South and West Kerry Local Electoral Area. However, this he is hoping to secure what he describes as a "badly needed" County Council seat in West Kerry.

At the Fine Gael convention, which was held in Dingle on Monday night, Cllr Seamus 'Cosaí' Mac Gearailt, who has been a councillor since 1999, and Tommy Griffin - a cousin of Junior Minister Brendan Griffin from Keel - were selected as the Fine Gael local election candidates in the Dingle Electoral Area.

Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin Dingle Local Electoral Area convention will be held in O'Sullivan's pub, Garraí na dTor, on next Saturday, December 8, with the aim of selecting one candidate to run in the local elections next May.


West Kerry cooking earns more honours

Solas Tapas and the Pantrí café in Dingle have been added to the prestigious McKenna's guide to the best places to eat in Ireland, adding to the substantial list of eateries on the peninsula that have passed the McKenna's personal inspection.

John McKenna told The Kerryman that these new additions are individual, creative and fun places where cutomers can enjoy real cooking'. He added that their sense of spontaneity comes through in their cooking which is fresh, satisfying and unclichéd.

Meanwhile, traditional homecooking in West Kerry is the subject of 'Blasta' the TG4 television programme that airs tonight (Wednesday).

The programme will take a look at inherited recipies contributed by Deirdre Flannery of the Fish Box restaurant, Eibhlín Ní Chearna and Áine Uí Dhubhslaine. The programme, which was filmed in a popup kitchen in Dick Mack's yard, will be broadacst at 8.30pm on TG4


‘Shop local’ to protect jobs on home front

With December 8 - the traditional start of the Christmas shopping period - on our doorstep the Dingle Business Chamber is asking people to support jobs in the community by doing as much of their shopping as possible locally.

According to Risteard Mac Liam of the Business Chamber, "it is now more evident than ever that rural Ireland is going to be forgotten if people don't take care of their local area". The threat to shops and other businesses in rural areas and in small towns such as Dingle comes from the mega stores that are based in the major town and increasing from online shopping, where highly publicised promotions such as 'black Friday' and 'cyber Monday' are drawing in more and more customers.

"We would ask people to support local employment by shopping locally. Keeping jobs in the community is very important to its survival," said Risteard, who wanted to remind people that a voucher for a local shop is the one most likely to be used.


New plan to turn town park into sports/activity centre

It is likely to be well into the New Year before Kerry County Council makes a decision on granting planning permission for a project that would effectively turn Dingle town park into a sports/activity centre.

A history of anti-social behaviour has given the town park a bad name and even the frequently vandalised children's playground that was located there became redundant after a parents' group, operating under the company name of Am Spraoi, succeeded in getting a new playground built near Cooleen last year.

The loss of the playground took away the town park's remaining community use - apart from very popular family events during Féile na Bealtaine and the Food Festival - and left a question over its future. Earlier this year a plan to build an all-weather sports pitch in a section of the park was mooted and this subsequently evolved into a plan to re-develop the entire park as a sports/activity area.

In October the Am Spraoi group, with reconstituted membership but still under the chairmanship of Cllr Seamus Cosaí Fitzgerald, applied to Kerry County Council for planning permission to construct a new all-weather playing pitch, sprint lanes, a new tennis court, boundary fences, flood lighting, a 300m jogging track with eight outdoor exercise stations, and a single storey building with changing rooms, toilets, showers, a fitness suite and a managers office.

Mary and Gearóidín Farrell, who own the Corner House on Dykegate Lane which backs onto the town park, have lodged several concerns at the development, including that it "may not by financially viable in which case there is a risk that in a few years' time Dingle will be faced with abandoned, derelict buildings and increased problems with anti-social behaviour and nuisance."

They also express concern that the development would create even greater parking problems in surrounding areas and that "its expressly commercial nature and large scale will detract and fundamentally change the current designated primary uses as passive and/or open space/amenity.

Cllr Fitzgerald said he doesn't expect a decision on the application for several months and that, if planning permission is granted, the development would probably be carried out in phases depending on the availability of funding.


Children learn about the value of our coasts

Secluded from the hubbub of the Other Voices music trail, young children gathered in Mara Beo aquarium on Saturday to expand their knowledge of our coastal environment and how to protect it.

Although the message was serious the approach was light and engaging at the family day, hosted by the Clean Coasts section of An Taisce in conjunction with Other Voices, Mara Beo and a list of national and local groups involved in protecting the marine environment.

The children were absorbed in arts and crafts, making Christmas lanterns from jam jars and bits of fishing net and other marine litter, there was music with a distinctly nautical flavour, games, experiments, art and even a dissection of a cuttlefish, which fascinated those who weren't squeamish about watching it.


Dingle’s ‘crannín’ glory is too little, too late

Dingle's official town Christmas tree isn't much to look at now, but it's an investment in the future, according to Risteard Mac Liam of the local Business Chamber who admits that the rather diminutive specimen planted in the Garda barracks garden last week didn't quite measure up to expectations.

The official lighting of the tree took place in front of a gathering of lantern-bearing children and the town band on Sunday evening and the somewhat underwhelming occasion brought back almost fond memories of the windblown monkey puzzle tree that had served - albeit badly - as the town's Christmas tree for many years.

The monkey puzzle was cut down over a year ago and was to have been replaced by a six-metre tall, live fir tree in time for last year's Féile na Soilse. That didn't happen and, between one thing and another, the promised tree didn't get planted during the year either.

Then there was the problem caused by Dublin City Council buying up Christmas trees all over the country to adorn the streets of the capital with the result that when the Dingle tree was finally sourced only smaller offerings remained.

'A goddamn twig' was one of the epithets applied to the new tree on Sunday evening, but even great oaks come from humble beginnings and Risteard is confident it'll grow in stature with time - and perhaps generous applications of 10:10:20. "We hoped it would be bigger but it's what was available at the time. People are disappointed, and we're disappointed ourselves, but we're building for the future," he said.