It hasn’t been common knowledge up to now but it appears that many local authorities have taken a rather unusual view when it comes to parochial houses occupied by priests. Even though the houses in question are the private homes of the priests they are not regarded by the local authorities as ordinary residences and are zoned as ‘Educational and Community Facilities’. The end result is that, consequently, insurance companies and utility companies such as ESB, Eircom and Bord Gais do not regard them as private residences either and they are billed on a higher rate which is a very expensive difference.

Now, Diocesan Trustees around the country are complaining that the priests are being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. For instance, in Galway city, the Diocesan Trustees have described the situation as ‘unfair, unjust, inadequate and unreasonable’ and have appealed to planners to ensure that private houses occupied by priests are zoned residential ‘like any other residence occupied by a citizen of the State’.

I’ve checked it out and, thankfully, the local authorities in Waterford city and county have a more enlightened and sensible attitude and priests’ houses are considered to be their homes and nothing else.

Herd of wild goats wiped out

There is much weeping and gnashing of teeth up the road in Roscommon where a herd of wild goats has been mysteriously wiped out although it may have been a simple case of everybody forgetting about them.

The carcasses of the animals were found last week on Inch McDermott Island in Lough Ree. The uninhabited, 15-acre island is located on the County Longford side of Lough Ree and is about three to four miles from the villages of Lanesboro and Ballyleague. Local people noticed a large collection of gulls and birds over Inch McDermott and alerted the authorities who made the grim discovery. The island is said to be owned by Longford County Council and has not been farmed privately for about sixteen years. One theory being examined is that the wild goats starved to death due to the harsh winter weather and lack of vegetation or growth on the island.

Rats as big as dogs

This week comes a story from Tullow in County Carlow that will surely put the wind up any person nervous about rats.

Huge river-rats ‘as big as dogs’ are said to be swarming all over one of Tullow’s most scenic areas to the horror of local residents. One resident said the last time he had seen rats so big was when he lived in Mumbai in India. His point was underlined when The Carlow Nationalaist newspaper sent a photographer to the area and, according to the report, one of the giant and cheeky rodents all but posed for the camera.

Carlow County Council’s Director of Services, John Carley, said they could not lay poison in areas where people walked and exercised the pets. “It’s a natural phenomenon”, said Mr Carley, “when you live near a river there will be rats.”

Older readers will remember an infamous incident in Waterford city about 30 years ago when ‘rats as big as cats’ were said to be infesting a certain road in a housing estate. It turned out that the only pest involved was a two legged love rat!

Eleanor McEvoy fights for retention of Rosslare line

The proposed closure of the Waterford to Rosslare rail service has occupied a lot of column inches in all the newspapers across the South East in recent times and rightly so.

The proposed closure has been unanimously condemned by a wide range of interests and especially so by the business and tourism sectors. In our own paper last week, Dermot Keyes quoted Damien Cassidy of the National Rail Conservation and Heritage Group as describing Iarnrod Eireann’s plan as ‘plainly daft’.

County Waterford Labour Councillor, Ger Barron, described the closure as short-sighted and claimed the rail link between Waterford and Rosslare had been the victim of a deliberate policy of poor timetables and little or no marketing until it became uneconomic. The proposed rail closure and the recent cutback in bus services in Waterford highlighted the difference between the Green Party’s policy on public transport and what was the reality on the ground, said Councillor Barron.

Meanwhile, the award-winning singer and composer, Eleanor McEvoy, who lives in County Wexford, is so incensed about the closure that she took out a half-page advertisement in last week’s Wexford Echo newspaper condemning the move. Eleanor once used a photograph of the now demolished Bridgetown Station on the cover of one of her albums and says the closure of the line, apart at all from the detrimental effect on business and tourism, will be a huge blow to the ordinary people of Waterford and Wexford, young and old. She also points out that Wexford students using the train to commute to college at WIT in Waterford city will be discommoded.

A BIG discovery at Mount Melleray

A young novice arrived at Mount Melleray Monastery in County Waterford last week and his superiors assigned him to assist a number of monks who had embarked on an artistic venture of copying out the old laws and rules of the Order by hand.

The novice immediately noticed that all the monks were copying from copies, not from the original manuscript. So, thinking about this, the new arrival went to his superior and pointed out that if someone had made an error making the first copy, it would never be picked up because all subsequent editions were taken from the copy not the original.

The senior monk was somewhat taken aback. “We have been copying from the copies for centuries, my son, but you make a good point and we had better check it out”, he declared.

The old man fetched a large lantern and descended down a series of steep staircases that led to a cave that had been hewn out of the rock under the monastery. The novice accompanied him for most of the journey but was instructed to wait while his superior entered a small alcove where the original manuscript was preserved. Several hours went by and the newcomer waited patiently until the silence was disturbed by a bloodcurdling wail that seemed to go on for ages. He then heard the sound of loud sobbing so he entered the alcove to find the old cleric on his knees swaying to and fro in torment.

“What is the matter Reverend Father, can I help”, exclaimed the anxious young novice. “My son, my son, you were right. When they made the first copy they missed the R. Dear God in Heaven, they missed the R”, cried out the priest in anguish.

“I don’t understand, Reverend Father, what R are you talking about”, said the novice. A strange, twisted look swept across the old monk’s face as he replied in a trembling voice. “My son, the word copied down from our rules all those years ago was ‘celebate’but I now see that it should have been ‘celebrate’!”