In what could well be an example to us in Waterford, and to the rest of the country, the authorities in Westport, County Mayo, have come up with a simple yet very effective way of attracting more tourists to their town.

Car parking is a big problem these days no matter where people go and, very often, if a location has a reputation for being difficult to park in, people go elsewhere. For instance, every Christmas thousands of shoppers give Waterford city centre a miss because they have so much trouble finding quick and convenient parking.

However, the people in Westport put their heads together and came up with a further 200 prime spaces for the summer months. For the most part, the spaces have been created by all the schools in the area agreeing to allow their grounds to be used for public parking. Most of the groundwork and cajoling was done by the Town Engineer, Patrick Corcoran, who was able to announce at this week’s meeting of the Council that the necessary insurance arrangements had been put in place and that the parking would be free to motorists.

Last week, Mr. Corcoran thanked the managements of the schools for their co-operation and he also paid tribute to local businessmen who had also made property available for public parking. All the elected representatives were delighted and Town Manager, Peter Hynes, congratulation all concerned for such positive thinking and cooperation. It sounds like a great idea to me.


Eighty kids
caught short!

And still on the subject of tourism, there was quite a brouhaha in Kilkenny City recently when the lack of public toilets caused a big headache for teachers escorting a school outing.

A group of 81 schoolchildren from Sallins National School were visiting Kilkenny and hugely enjoyed their trips to the Dunmore Caves and then the famous Castle. The children’s average age was 10 and they were in the city centre when, one by one, they needed a toilet. Teacher Martine O’Dwyer said they discovered that the toilets that used to be on The Parade had been knocked down so they asked officials in the Castle if the children could use the facilities there but they were told the toilets in the castle could not cater for such a large number of youngsters.

So, with concern mounting and more than a few of the children hopping from foot to foot, the teachers bussed their charges to the Market Yard only to find that those toilets had also been confined to history. Concern was now turning to blind panic so the school party returned to Kilkenny Castle and threw themselves on the mercy of the staff there. Ms. O’Dwyer said the staff were most helpful and allowed the children to use the toilets in small groups with the most needy being put to the top of the queue. However, she said it was crazy that a major tourist destination like Kilkenny had no public conveniences when, not too long ago, there were five separate sets of public toilets.

It is understood a facility is planned for The Parade area but a construction date has not been announced and plans for a second facility at The Market Yard are only at the design stage. Declan Murphy of Failte Ireland said one of the most frequent questions they were asked by visitors was: ‘Where are the toilets’.


When a mayoral pact breaks down

The election of the Waterford city and county mayors went smoothly enough but there was less than parliamentary language flying around at last week’s controversial election of the Mayor of Tipperary Town when the pact broke down unexpectedly.

There was shock followed by outrage in the council chamber when the outgoing Mayor, Councillor Brendan Lonergan, reneged on the pact that would have given the top job to his Independent colleague, Councillor Mary Swords. There was uproar when Mayor Lonergan stunned his colleagues by declaring that he believed Councillor Swords would be out of her depth as First Citizen and would find the role too tough. Instead, he switched his vote to his former Fine Gael colleague, Councillor Anne Tuohy Halligan and she was elected when her name was drawn out of a hat following a tied vote with Councillor Swords.

The other members of the pact, comprising Independent members of the council and a PD representative, were outraged by Mayor Lonergan’s u-turn and he was referred to as ‘a traitor, a rattlesnake and a scab’. Councillor Swords who had spoken in glowing terms, earlier in the meeting, about Mayor Lonergan’s year in office, retracted her statement and then some.


Jackie bids adieu

And speaking of elections, the colourful Independent TD, Jackie Healy Rae, has announced that he will not contest his Kerry seat at the next general election.

However, Mr. Healy Rae’s name on the ballot papers will be replaced by that of his son, Councillor Michael Healy Rae, who has just completed a successful year as Mayor of Kerry. The announcement ends widespread speculation as to which of Mr. Healy Rae’s sons would eventually succeed him on the Dail ticket as his eldest son, Danny, is also a member of the County Council.

Deputy Healy Rae said he had won three elections in a row and it was now time to stand aside for Michael who was a ‘mighty’ councillor. Danny was also a ‘mighty’ councillor but his business commitments would make a full-time political career very difficult. However, that was the path that Michael had decided to pursue. It will be interesting to see if Jackie’s supporters will continue to support Michael.


More UFO sightings

People who believe in the possibility of UFOs will be interested in a little drama that is going on in Britain at present. The Ministry of Defence is facing demands to launch an official inquiry into a series of UFO sightings, including one filmed by a soldier on night patrol a few weeks ago. UFO enthusiasts believe the incidents, which happened in South Wales, are particularly significant because they included observations made by the crew of a police helicopter and military personnel.

The Ministry has confirmed that it had been handed footage captured on a mobile phone by a corporal on guard duty at Tern Hill Barracks, near Market Drayton, Shropshire, on 7 June. Corporal Mark Proctor (38) said he witnessed a ‘fleet’ of objects zig-zagging across the sky at about 11pm. “I was on duty in the guard room when the other boys outside began shouting. I went out to see what the commotion was about and could see 13 craft in the skies. They were like rotating cubes with multiple colours.”

A former UFO expert at the Ministry of Defence, Nick Pope, said an inquiry to establish what had been seen by the witnesses was vital.

“Something quite extraordinary does seem to be going on in British air space at the moment and radar tapes, as well as footage of the incidents, should be examined as part of the investigation”, he insisted.


Being ‘gas’ or ‘stupid’

We have all heard about ‘gas men’ and the love/hate relationship they enjoy with their long-suffering wives. In fact, some really are ‘gas men’ but others are plain stupid with possible tendencies to enjoy pain as demonstrated by the following two examples!

Being a genuine ‘gas man’, Billy arrived home the worse for wear after a very late night out with the lads. “Howya, love”, he said to his wife who met him at the door with a sweeping brush in her hand, “are you still cleaning up are or you flying off somewhere?” Now that’s a ‘gas man’.

Then there was Timmy who arrived home, also very late, reeking of booze and perfume. His wife was also waiting at the door armed with a big sweeping brush. “Howya, love”, he cooed, playfully slapping her on the backside, “fair play to you for waiting up because you’re definitely next.” Now that is a very, very stupid man.


A squashed snail

Then there was the City Council worker who frightened a passer-by on The Mall last week when he suddenly crashed his shovel down on the pavement. “The noise made me jump”, said the elderly woman. “Sorry about that Ma’am”, said the worker, “I was just squashing a big, fat snail.”

“That’s terrible, what did a little snail ever do to you”, said the woman.

“He was annoying me all day that’s what”, said the worker. “Everywhere I went, the fecker kept following me.”