Many people were surprised to learn last week that a number of councils around the country are engaging the costly services of independent mediators who deal with conflict issues between tenants in their housing estates. From enquiries I have made, Waterford City Council is not among them.

The story emerged when The Clare Champion newspaper reported that Ennis Town Council was spending €4,000 a month on the services of a professional mediator, an unnamed person who had been heavily and directly involved in negotiations for the historic Good Friday Agreement. It also emerged that one of the problems being dealt with was the ongoing Traveller feud in Ennis.

Ennis Acting Town Clerk, Niall O’Keeffe, confirmed that the Council had been using mediation services for the last 18 months. Referring to the cost, Mr O’Keeffe said the Town Council was not the sole provider of funding for mediation between Travellers or anybody else.

The Garda Chief Superintended in Clare, John Kerin, welcomed the use of mediators in conflict situations and pointed out that such an initiative was not unique to Ennis as it has also been used in other areas across the country. So far, no other local authority has confirmed its use of professional mediators.

Money on the tarmac

There may have been a little bit of poetic licence involved but I liked the story last week about the boss of Knock Airport, Liam Scollan, who exclaimed ‘Hallelujah’ on hearing the news that a grant of €365,000 had been confirmed for the airport. Then, as he put down his telephone, who did he see striding across the tarmac off a British Airways flight only the composer of ‘Hallelujah’, legendary singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen en route to his concert at Lissadell House in Sligo.

Well that set me thinking as to whom Waterford Regional Airport manager, Graham Doyle, would like to see getting off an Aer Aran flight at Killowen. His No 1 would probably be ABBA (Money, Money, Money) but he wouldn’t turn away Dire Straits (Money for Nothing) or Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey (Money Makes the World Go Round). People he wouldn’t want to see would be Elvis Presley (In the Ghetto)and Ray Charles (I’m Busted)!

Music and unborn babies

The University of Limerick is engaged in a very interesting research project at present, the possible impact of music on babies in the womb. With the help of the Maternity Department in the city’s Regional Hospital, pregnant women are being taught a specific selection of soothing songs and lullabies to sing to their unborn babies. As the project progresses, the researchers will attempt to measure the reactions and responses, if any, from the children when the same songs are sung to them after birth when they are in stressful situations. We shall see what we shall see.

Gentleman Jim Reeves

I was reminded this week that it is all of 47 years since the late, great country singer, Jim Reeves, toured this country. He appeared at The Atlantic Ballroom in Tramore but I was that little bit too young to go and see him. However, according to reports, Gentleman Jim was less than sweetness and light and his visit was not very harmonious.

Crowds of up to 2,000 turned up to hear him sing but Jim had a thing about pianos and walked out of some gigs and refused to appear at others because he wasn’t happy with the quality and tuning of the pianos at the venues.

Before he was a politician, former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, was a music promoter and he had to intervene personally to convince a very prickly Mr Reeves that he should cancel two appearances on the night that Pope John the 23rd died.

Many years later, as Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds famously (or should that be infamously) performed one of Jim Reeves’ biggest hits on television, ‘He’ll Have To Go’.

Of headaches and meanness

The lads were sitting at the bar one night and they could see that James was in very bad form. “It’s this bloody headache”, he explained, “I’ve tried everything to shift it but it won’t go away, it just stays there hammering away like hell.”

“Actually”, piped up Christy, “I often get headaches and, over the years, the only thing that takes them away is for my wife to massage my forehead with a soft, damp towel while, at the same time, singing to me and blowing gently into my ears. You should try it, it really does work.”

A couple of nights later, the friends were sitting at the bar again when Christy asked James if his headache was better. “It is, it’s gone completely, you gave me great advice that I acted upon”, said a grateful James. “And I’ll tell you another thing for nothing, you have a lovely, comfortable house!”

Meanwhile, sitting at the other end of the counter were the Doyle brothers who were so mean they would grow potatoes in your ear and they were notorious for it. They ran a lucrative little business together but they were arguing over the annual accounts. “I’m telling you, I’ve checked your figures several times over and you are out by almost €60 and I want to know where it is”, said the older brother. “Francis, I’m telling you I don’t know, there must be a mistake in the figures somewhere”, insisted Thomas.

The older Doyle looked hard at his brother. “Tommy, tell me the truth, don’t hold back now. Are you keeping a woman on the go that I don’t know about?”