It’s not often that I go to the pictures but, last week, we went to see ‘The Leatherheads’ starring George Clooney and Renee Zellweger at The Storm Cinema in Railway Square. To our surprise, Waterford featured prominently several times during the film but, of course, it wasn’t our Waterford but a small town named Waterford in the United States. All the same, it was nice, and a bit surreal, to see our name up on the screen. Incidentally, it had nothing to do with crystal, it had all to do with American football.

Judge backs hill farmers

Hill farmers in Waterford and surrounding counties will be very interested in the outcome of a landmark court case in County Mayo last week. The case, the first of its kind in this country, was against two farmers who were accused of allowing their sheep to graze in a habitat protected by EU regulations. Ian a reserved judgement, delivered at Ballycroy District Court, Judge Mary Devins dismissed the charges against the two defendants.

She said that, having reviewed the submissions and the case law, it was her opinion that the Department of the Environment needed to prove that the two farmers intended to break the law. It was not enough for the Department to prove that overgrazing had taken place and that the farmers were responsible.

Judge Devins said there were certain statutes which imputed strict liability where the complainant need only prove that a wrongful act had occurred and that the defendant was responsible. She was not persuaded that such strict liability applied in this case which was taken under the EU Birds and Habitats Directive.

Earlier, the defendants’ solicitor, Tom Walsh, had argued that it was unreasonable to expect sheep to respect boundaries that existed only on paper. Both defendants had farmed the lands in question for many years and most of their property was inside the protected land. It would put the farmers to unreasonable expense if they were to farm the way the Department of the Environment wanted them to, said Judge Devins. No doubt the authorities will appeal Judge Devins’ decision but round one to the little people.

The Muntjac have come to eat our crops and flowers!

An unusual story this week about a 19-inch, alien, barking deer called a Muntjac. The deer in question is alien to this country as opposed to an alien from outer space but it still an exotic creature for all that.

It’s actually quite a serious situation because large tracts of Wicklow and parts of Wexford are under attack from the species that, it is believed, was originally smuggled into this country by hunters. The Muntjac is also now common in England although it is native to South East Asia. It is the oldest known species of deer in the world and first roamed the countryside up to 35 million years ago.

The Muntjac have rampant breeding habits and are very difficult to find because the male rarely exceeds 19 inches in height and the female is even smaller. The animal also has a very unusual, distinctive bark that puzzles or sometimes frightens people who hear it for the first time. They eat crops of all kinds and also have a fondness for wild flowers but, unfortunately, they also eat the bulbs which prevents regeneration.

An official Order was put in place by the authorities in February that allowed the Muntjac to be hunted until the end of March in an effort to curtail the spread of the species but, according to the Chairperson of the Irish Wildlife Trust, Conor Kelliher, it is already too late for that.

“They are here to stay”, says Mr. Kelliher, “but we won’t really know of their breeding success until they start to be knocked down by cars on the roads.”


Is racing pigs cruel?

The well known Labour TD Emmet Stagg was in a bit of a tizzy last week and backed calls by the animals rights group to have a pig-race, planned for Naas this week, banned on cruelty grounds.

The pig-race is scheduled to be part of a family fun-day, run in conjunction with the Punchestown Racing Festival, but Deputy Stagg is clearly unhappy about the prospect. He says that, unlike horses and dogs, pigs are not designed for racing and to put the terrified animals in a situation in which they were never intended to be, especially in the middle of a large, noisy crowd, would be cruel.

However, Fine Gael Councillor Darren Scully, who is Chairman of Naas Council’s Festivals Committee, insists that Deputy Stagg is worrying needlessly. He said the ISPCA had been informed of the race, a vet would be on site as would be an experienced pig farmer who knew how to deal with pigs and, finally, the animals would be allowed to cover the track at their own pace and would not be driven or hit with sticks.


No show like
a virtual Joe show

It was announced last week that the late Joe Dolan is to become the first Irish artiste to perform a virtual concert.

It was arranged for Elvis Presley and the BeeGees brother, Robin Gibb, among others so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the popular Mullingar man is to follow suit.

The INEC in Killarney will play host to the three-day event in mid-July and Joe’s band will be live on stage for every show but the singer’s vocals will be added via state of the art video and audio technology.

A spokesperson for the event said the concert had the backing of the Dolan family and all music on the night would be live apart from the lead vocals. The spokesperson said that several hotels in Killarney were already booked out by fans such was the enduring popularity of the singer.


Not to put a tooth in it!

The waiting room in a dentist’s surgery was packed last Saturday morning when a man and woman rushed in. “Everybody, this is an emergency can you let us jump the queue”, said the man who looked quite distressed. The other patients weren’t exactly happy about the situation but, nevertheless, they all nodded in agreement and the receptionist ushered the pair into the surgery.

“Doc, I’ve got an admission to make but you’re a golfer yourself so I know you understand the situation”, blurted out the man. “We’ve got to be on the First Tee in less than half an hour for the final of the mixed foursomes and we can’t be late so, please Doc, pull the aching tooth as it is and be done with it. We just don’t have time for an anaesthetic to be administered and then waiting for it to work. The pain won’t last long, so do it now, please.”

The dentist hadn’t the least intention of complying with the golfer’s unusual plea but he was impressed with his zeal for the game and curious about the tooth. “Which tooth is it”, he asked.

The man turned and pushed his wife forward. “Hurry up, Mary love, open your mouth and show the dentist your aching tooth.”