I came across a story last week that smacks of the most bizarre reasoning that might apply to a fictitious ‘Catch 22’ situation. It concerns regulations that prevented firefighters and council workers from using a chainsaw to free a seriously injured man who was trapped in his car after a tree fell on it.

South African student, Julian Karra, was driving between Rathdrum and Gleanealy when a tree toppled, crushing his car and trapping him inside. Fire Service personnel raced to the scene but it turned out they didn’t have the training required to use a chainsaw to cut through the branches to reach the driver. A call was then placed seeking assistance from Wicklow County Council but it transpired that, under Health and Safety regulations, they are not allowed to operate a chainsaw after 5pm!

Eventually, the tree was partially lifted off the car so that paramedics could tend to the injured driver. He was then taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital and later transferred to Beaumont Hospital where he was treated for serious head injuries.

Rathdrum County Councillor, Jimmy O’Shaughnessy, said he considered what happened to be a public scandal. Imagine, he said, nobody at the scene was allowed to operate a chainsaw in a situation where it was vital that the injured man should be taken to hospital as soon as possible.

A spokesperson at Wicklow County Hall later confirmed that staff were trained in the use of chainsaws but were not permitted to use them in the hours of darkness for safety reasons. The spokesperson added that the council was not a rescue service and should not be considered as such.

The Pirate Queen

It seems there were quite a few people from Waterford and surrounding areas who made the long trip to County Mayo last week to see the world amateur premier of ‘The Pirate Queen’ musical which was mounted by the Ballinrobe Musical Society.

Readers will recall that ‘The Pirate Queen’ was the brainchild of Riverdance creators, John McColgan and Moya Doherty, and featured music by Alan Boubil and Claude Michel Shonberg who were responsible for shows such as ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘Miss Saigon’. Unfortunately, despite the millions spent on it, when the show opened on Broadway in 2007 it wasn’t a popular success and did not enjoy a long run.

While the Broadway production used contemporary Riverdance-style choreography, the Ballinrobe show differed somewhat with eight of the finest Sean Nos dancers in the country on stage and they were joined by a separate group of traditional dancers from Clare Island. Veeery interesting.

Lands to be ‘dezoned’

All over the country, the owners of undeveloped residentially and commercially zoned lands are quaking in their boots following a decision by Kerry County Council to ‘dezone’ large tracts of properties. The widespread belief is that other local authorities around the country are preparing to go down the same route as their colleagues in the Kingdom.

In other words, many investors who purchased land zoned for residential development will see the value of their property seriously devalued if it is rezoned back to agricultural use. Business commentators say the move is likely to cause financial devastation for a great many people who own zoned land and now face seeing it devalued by hundreds of thousands of euro.

Well known politician, Michael Healy Rae, said he was very concerned about the situation as landowners often relied on such properties as collateral for bank loans.

A spokesperson for Kerry County Council said the local authority was within its rights under the Planning and Development Acts to dezone lands if required. There was no guarantee that lands zoned for a particular use in one Development Plan would automatically continue into the next plan. Tough talking in what really are tough times.

Closing the door after horse has bolted

At a time when everybody is encouraged to think ‘green’, illegal burning and dumping is escalating in a serious way in County Galway and it emerged last week that four out of five households in the county do not use a refuse collection service.

The County Council no longer operates its own bin collection service and that function is now carried out by private operators who have admitted that only a small fraction of homes in the areas they operate in are having their bins emptied.

Council wardens have already commenced a door-to-door campaign in several towns and villages asking people how they are disposing of their waste and, if they don’t get satisfactory answers, they will issue on-the-spot fines. The phrase ‘closing the door after the horse has bolted’ springs to mind. In the end, it will probably cost the local authority a lot more in legal charges prosecuting people than it would have spent retaining its own bin collection service.

Two ‘wans’ on the town!

Two married women were on their usual Tuesday ‘girls-night out’ that involved going for an early-bird meal, catching a film and then finishing off with a few drinks in a city centre bar. They had just downed their first drink and were discussing the film when they heard a loud shriek behind them and turned around to come face to face with an old schoolfriend who had emigrated to New York ten years earlier. Needless to say, they immediately set about catching up with old times and nobody was counting as the drinks flowed and flowed.

Their friend insisted that they go back to her place for coffee but it was coffee fortified with brandy and suddenly it was 2am and the two ladies were, to put it mildly, well on their ear and talking through their hats. A taxi was called but on the way home to their estate both got a violent urge to relieve themselves so the driver obligingly stopped outside a cemetery and the pair disappeared inside for a few minutes.

The next morning, both were still in their beds with dreadful hangovers when their worried husbands spoke on the phone. “She came home three hours later than usual, she had no knickers and it was obvious from her clothes that she had been lying on wet grass”, said the first husband who was close to tears. “You have my sympathy but I’m in even worse trouble”, said his friend miserably, “mine came home with a note attached to the back of her knickers that said ‘From all your dear friends in the Fire Station, we’ll never forget you’.