Quite a few regional newspapers come out on Wednesdays which, this year, was April 1st and the following are just some of the stories around the country that had people smiling and/or grinding their teeth!

First of all, thank you to all the people who called to say they enjoyed our own story about the government imposing a €500 birth tax on all new-born infants. Everybody, except one person, got the joke in the end but the odd-woman-out couldn’t be consoled and gave me an angry dressing down on the telephone for ‘putting more ideas in the bloody government’s head’!

The Tuam Herald frightened the life out of many of its readers and local publicans with a front-page report which revealed that Tuam had been selected as an alcohol-free town in a pilot EU health project. According to the report, Tuam was to join with towns in several other countries where alcohol would not be sold either in pubs or in retail outlets for a period of one year. The project was to be supported and monitored by the HSE. While the sale of alcohol would be prohibited by law, the townspeople could indulge in their own homes if they wished although the HSE was asking people to join in the spirit of the experiment and abstain for the period in question.


The large Ball at Naas

The Leinster Leader in Naas pushed the boat out with a front-page photograph and report. According to The Leader, there was chaos on the N7 motorway when the famous giant ball, just outside the town, dislodged itself from its base and came crashing down on the motorway narrowly missing a number of cars and vans. Officially known as ‘Perpetual Motion’, the giant ball was apparently dislodged by a freak gust of hot air and local wags were suggesting came from Naas Council Chamber. There was an excellent, digitally manipulated photograph that showed the whole shocking scene on the roadway.

And, talking about transport, up north in Strabane, the Finn Valley Post reported that EU chiefs were assessing a rapid rail plan for the Fintown area based on Dublin’s DART railway network. Local people wanted the service but they most certainly did not want the name because it was to be known as FART

There was a suggestion that the new system would traverse the old railway track that once ran from Stranorlar to Glenties via Fintown. Locals said, if the name proved to be a problem, they would, as a compromise, be willing to allow its base to be in Ballybofey and then it could be known as The BART.


Fungi located in the Nore

The Kilkenny People produced a front-page photograph that showed a large pod of dolphins gamboling in the River Nore in the heart of the city.

People living in the John’s Quay area were awoken by the sound of the mammals jumping and splashing in the river. There were 15 adults and three youngsters in the pod but the big news was that among the dolphins was none other than Fungi who ihas been reported to be missing from the waters around Dingle. According to the newspaper, Fungi got tired of being alone and attached himself to the extended family of dolphins now drawing large crowds to Kilkenny city centre.

Also in the South East, The Wexford People was bombarded with phone calls following its report that there were plans to shoot ten-thousand wild geese currently causing problems on the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve.


Eddie Breen’s gift to the
cooking pot

The birds on the North Slob are mainly Brent Geese from Greenland although a large number also arrive from Canada via Iceland. There are so many of them that they are pushing out other important species and Minister John Gormley agreed that a cull should take place in order to protect a number of vulnerable, rare species.

Former Waterford City Manager and now Wexford County Manager, Eddie Breen, said the cull would be an expensive exercise. There were not enough members in local gun-clubs to do the job so professional shooters would have to be brought in from England and the project would be funded by borrowing money currently put aside for the proposed Wexford Bypass. Mr. Breen said, if members of the public waited until the cull was over, they could have as many of the birds as they liked for the cooking pot.

The Nenagh Guardian revealed that a North Tipperary farmer had made a simple but amazing breakthrough that should make him his fortune as well as benefiting other dairy suppliers.

Rathcabbin man, Austin O’Meara, had been working with dairy scientists and nutritionists for two years before making his breakthrough recently. Everybody knows about flavours been added to dairy products in factories but, in this case, Mr. O’Meara developed a way of feeding strawberries, bananas and pineapples to his pedigree herd of Fresian cows and the end result was milk and cream that was flavoured at source.

Teagasc expert Basil Nolan told the newspaper he believed the invention would make a lot of money for farmers everywhere and he congratulated Mr. O’Meara for producing a superb, totally natural product that was set to secure a prime position on supermarker shelves.


Whistling carrots

And The Tipperary Star had a story about a group of farmers who were also possessed with an entrepreneurial spirit.

By engaging in a long period of modification and genetic alterations, a group of six farmers developed a carrot that actually whistles when it is cooked to the correct degree. The new Tipperary Carrot grows taller than most others and it has air-holes in its side that whistle when boiling water or steam is pushed through. The first crops have been grown on farms near Drom, Littleton and Toomevara. A major supermarket chain is very interested in securing exclusive rights to the modified carrot and, apparently, its marketing people believe it will be a runaway success, especially in Continental Europe.

The Western People, reported that, in this week’s budget, the cash-starved government planned to impose a tax of €12 on every person who climbed Croagh Patrick. The newspaper said pilgrims were sure to revolt when asked to pay at the foot of the holy mountain that is considered to be a national treasure. It is estimated that over 100,000 people make the pilgrimage up the mountain each year with July being the busiest month. Local community and religious groups were said to be extremely angry. In the past, various companies were prevented from mining for gold on the mountain but local people believed what the government was doing was far worse.


GAA versus Soccer

Finally, this week, I promise this item about a GAA/Soccer row in Kerry is not an April Fool story. It is absolutely true and if it wasn’t so serious and God-awful, it would be funny. I suspect there is something or somebody at play behind the scenes but, for the moment, we must confine ourselves to the hard facts and leave the question of ‘why’ to later.

At the centre of the row is the Castlemaine Sports Field that was given to the general community, in the trust of the GAA, by the Spring Walker family in 1936. Since then it has always been used as a community venue and lots of carnivals, community fairs, dog shows, tennis and basketball events were held there at various times. However, since their formation 20 years ago, the local soccer team, Castlemaine United, have been using the field as their home ground.

However, last year, the Milltown Castlemaine GAA Club insisted that the ground was their property as it had been legally handed over to them by the Spring Walker family all those years ago. It was also pointed out that the suspension of the GAA’s Rule 42, banning soccer from the Association’s pitches, did not apply outside Croke Park. Then, in October, the GAA club was granted planning permission to redevelop the pitch, erect floodlights and construct a car-park and associated services despite an application from the soccer club for leave of appeal.

The row simmered on but, last week, the whole thing escalated when the sports field was ploughed up on orders of the GAA club, under the cover of darkness, leaving the soccer club homeless. The Chairman of the GAA County Board confirmed that the work had been carried out on its instructions. The following night, a big hole was dug in the middle of the GAA club’s pitch causing an Under-21 game to be moved to a different venue. And so it goes.

The latest move is that a newly formed body, the Castlemaine Community Sportsfield Action Group, is to lodge a petition in the Circuit Court seeking an injunction restraining Milltown Castlemaine GAA Club from further interference with the site. Everything changes, my friends, and, sometimes when it comes to land, nothing changes!