As a person who always tries to see the bigger picture, I’ve always been a bit dubious about the merits of people getting into a lather of sweat and worry over mobile-phone masts and electricity pylons. Experts have told me that people should be more worried about leaky microwave ovens in their own kitchens and the more telephone masts the better because the signals will be weaker.

Personally, I wouldn’t like to live under a big electricity pylon although somebody once pointed out to me that half of Waterford was probably born in the shadow of huge pylons in the old Airmount Hospital on the ‘top of the town’.

Either way, I came across one of the most unusual photographs I have ever seen last week in The Meath Chronicle newspaper. Under a headline that says ‘May the force-field be with you’, the photograph by Seamus Farrelly shows local councilor, Brian Fitzgerald, standing in a field, in the dark, waving what appears to be an armed Star-Wars light sabre.

In fact, the light sabre is an ordinary fluorescent light-tube and Councillor Fitzgerald was just one of forty protestors who carried similar light-tubes into a field at Batterstown and stood in the vicinity of a 400kV power line. Even though none of the fluorescent tubes had any wires, casings or starter-buttons attached, they all lit up and glowed in the dark!

“We just walked into that field and the tubes lit up spontaneously. It was an amazing but worrying sight and clearly there are questions on health issues that need to be answered”, said the Councillor.

Recalling Vincent O’Toole’s Wallace plaques

A row going on in Galway at the moment reminds me of one of the biggest and most entertaining modern controversies in Waterford when, over forty years ago, the City Council sued hotelier Vincent O’Toole over the William Vincent Wallace plaques that still adorn the outside walls of his Maryland premises at the corner of Catherine Street and The Mall.

The plaques had been part of a bigger monument that was subscribed to many years earlier by fans of the Waterford born composer and made in London. Because of World War 1 and other matters, the monument was never delivered in full and the parts that did come were put into storage by the Corporation and subsequently forgotten about. In the 1960s, Mr. O’Toole, a huge Wallace admirer and enthusiast, managed to trace two of the plaques to a builder’s yard and subsequently erected them on the walls of his premises in honour of Wallace. A court case ensued from which Mr. O’Toole emerged triumphant and the plaques stayed where he had put them.

In Galway, last week, a sculpture commissioned by the city in the 1980s, and estimated to be worth €50,000, cannot now be located. The celebrated Irish sculpture Eddie Delaney won a national competition to design a work of art that would be displayed adjacent to the newly opened Millennium Bridge in the city. The €10,000 prize fund was provided by the Department of the Environment. Other works by Mr. Delaney include the Foundation Tree in Chicago, a statue of Wolfe Tone and a famine memorial at St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin and a statue of Thomas Davis on College Green, also in Dublin.

The 25-foot stainless steel piece was erected in Galway as planned although it was never seen by the public as the artist intended because it was never lit from within as envisaged. At one stage, it was taken down for repairs following wind damage but it was never reinstated and about ten years ago the then city manager, John Tierney, said it was in safe storage until another suitable location could be found for it. But, now that they are looking for it, the sculpture has disappeared and local councillors fear that it has been lost forever. Perhaps they should ask Vincent O’Toole to lend his expertise!

4FM not coming to Waterford

In truth, between national, regional and local stations, I guess we have enough radio programmes to keep us entertained not to mention the availability of personal music players of various descriptions. So, even though I won’t be shedding any tears, I still thought it odd that the new radio station for over-45s will not be available in Waterford.

The 4FM consortium, whose investors include The Irish Times, has been awarded a ten-year, multi-city broadcasting licence with the proviso that the station must serve the musical needs of listeners over 45 years of age. In its successful submission to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, the consortium said a typical two-hour sequence from its schedule could feature currents hits plus golden oldies from people such as Steve Harley, Bobby Darin, Simply Red, ABBA, Sting, Barry Manilow, Van Morrisson, Walker Brothers, Beach Boys, Spandau Ballet, Elvis Presley and Thin Lizzy.

However, the licence limits the broadcasting remit to listeners in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Clare. As I said, it doesn’t bother me one little bit but I still think it strange that the thriving urban areas of Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny, Carlow and Clonmel have been excluded.


Lean times in construction industry

Unfortunately, it would appear that the slowdown in the construction industry has already began to bite. Last week, I spoke to a businessman who told me how, last year, he had spent two months waiting for plasterers to come to a new house he was constructing. Last week, he received calls from eight different contractors who were available immediately but, sadly, he only had work for one of them. As for the others, he said they would probably join the long procession of Irish construction workers who were commuting to England each week to work on the Olympic Games site in London.

Handcuffed off
the field

Over the years we have seen more than a few unruly scenes on our own playing fields in Waterford but, as far as I know, we have never seen a handcuffed spectator being marched off the pitch by gardai. Such a scenario occurred last weekend in North County Dublin when over 3000 spectators turned up to see Fingal Ravens and Ballinagh of Cavan compete in the semi-final of the All Ireland Intermediate Football Club Final.

Following a controversial sending off, a Ballinagh supporter ran onto the pitch and punched an umpire. A number of spectators joined with gardai in the chase and the assailant was apprehended before being marched out of the ground in handcuffs.

Remembering Carnsore

Believe it or not but it was 30 years ago this year that the huge protest against nuclear power took place at Carnsore Point in County Wexford. The answer to an announcement from the government and the ESB that a nuclear power station would be built at Carnsore was a massive protest involving some 40,000 people and, at the time, it was said to have been the biggest political gathering of people on this Island since the time of Daniel O’Connell.

Many of the big names in the entertainment industry at the time travelled to Carnsore to entertain the protestors and the gig was referred to as ‘Ireland’s Woodstock’. Apparently, there are some anniversary celebrations in the pipeline for the summer although I suspect that, given the state of green issues in the world at present, a new debate on nuclear energy might not attract such a powerful negative response.


A hard-hearted employer?

A man owned a small, start-up business in Waterford and was contacted by a Department of Labour official following a complaint that he had not been paying proper wages to his employees.

“I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them”, demanded the official.

“I only have three employees”, replied the businessman, “there’s the main general worker and I pay him €600 a week plus free board in an apartment I own over the office. A second employee has only been here for a few months and I pay her a straight €500 per week.”

“And what about the third employee”, asked the Department official.

“Well”, admitted the boss, “he is a half-wit who works about 15 hours every day, does about 90 per cent of the work around here and is not taking home a wage at present. Mind you, he does get to sleep with my wife occasionally.”

The official was horrified. “That’s a disgraceful carry-on”, he fumed, “I want to interview that poor person immediately.”

“That would be me”, replied the businessman.