Our friends in Kilkenny are confidently predicting that President Barrack Obama will visit the Marble City and Moneygall in County Offaly in about three months time despite denials to the contrary by the US Embassy. One of the President’s ancestors is buried in the Kilkenny City’s Cathedral.

The word is that negotiations are underway and, if security arrangements can be put in place, the President will visit in May either en-route, or on his way back, from the summit meeting between the European Union and the US in Spain which currently holds the EU presidency. The current US Ambassador, Dan Rooney, has enjoyed a long association with Kilkenny since the early 1970s and was seen in the city again recently.

Those hopeful of a visit also believe that the First Lady, Michelle Obama, all but confirmed a visit to Taoiseach Brian Cowen with, literally, a wink and a nod. Speaking to the President at the White House last year, Mr Cowen assured the couple of the warmest of welcomes should they come to Ireland. The President said he would like to come but, according to the report, Mrs Obama gave the Taoiseach an exaggerated nod of the head and a prolonged wink which those present took to be a definite ‘yes’.

However, a spokesperson at the US Embassy in Dublin said last week that, at the present time, there were no official plans or arrangements made for President Obama to visit Ireland.

Portuguese Man-O-War

News this week that record numbers of deadly Portuguese Man-O-War jellyfish have swarmed into the waters off our east and south-east coasts. Warming sea temperatures and strong winds are the reasons given by experts for the appearance of the Man-O-War. Previously, it was mainly confined to the Gulf Stream in our west coast waters and was relatively unknown in the colder Irish Sea.

The Portuguese Man-O-War with its purplish glow and long tentacles can grow to the size of a football and year-round swimmers and beach walkers have been advised to be vigilant as their sting can be deadly and can still be active even if the creature itself is dead. According to reports, there have been dozens of confirmed sightings in recent months especially along the Wexford coastline.

According to Dr Tom Doyle of UCC’s Coastal and Marine Resources Centre, there are now unprecedented numbers of the jellyfish in our waters. Indeed, scientists are watching the situation with interest because, if the seas continue to warm, there is a possibility that the Lion’s Mane species, which is indigenous to Irish waters, could be replaced by the more aggressive Portuguese Man-O-War which is actually not a jellyfish at all. It is a siphonophore, a single animal made up of a colony of organisms.

Sea lettuce creates jobs

Speaking of marine matters, apparently, negotiations are at an advanced stage for the establishment in West Cork of a processing plant that will use local sea-lettuce as raw material for animal feed. It is proposed to set up a processing plant where over 20,000 tons of sea lettuce would be dried and milled each year in preparation for export as animal feed. The Cork coastline is said to be rich in sea lettuce with over 12,000 tons available in Courtmacsharry Bay alone.

Maybe there is something particularly special about the sea lettuce in West Cork but one can’t help but wonder why a similar job-creating enterprise could not be established somewhere along the Waterford coastline.

Tough and dangerous times

Many people will remember the major crime story of over three years ago Baiba Saulite, a young Latvian mother-of-two, was stabbed to death on the doorstep of her home in Swords, County Dublin.

Gardai believe the victim was murdered by a professional hitman as she chatted to friends and smoked a cigarette outside her home. The gunman fled the scene with an accomplice in a black BMW 520 car that was later found burned out at a nearby location.

It emerged last week that it is unlikely anybody will be charged with the crime due to lack of evidence but what will shock a lot of people is the fact that the slain woman’s solicitor, to this day, remains under 24-hour garda protection. This country really is becoming a tough and dangerous place to live, especially for those involved in the process of law, compared to the relatively innocent days of not so long ago.


There is bad news for some home owners this week as it emerges that home insurance is set to double for families in flooding blackspots – even if no claims were made. According to reports, many householders in the so-called black-spot areas have received renewal notices and have been stunned by the huge increases in their premiums.

Keith Barry’s ‘strong whiff of success’

Over the Christmas period, Waterford-born superstar magician, Keith Barry, was playing to a sold out charity performance in a top Las Vegas hotel where practically everybody in the audience was a famous household name.

As usual, Keith was doing really well and had the celebrity audience in the palm of his hand from the outset. Then he decided to hypnotise some members of his audience and there were roars and squeals of delight when six, really big, A-list celebs agreed to be his ‘victims’. Keith began by producing a pocket-watch that he swung in front of the celebrities’ eyes as he chanted the mantra “Watch the watch, watch the watch, watch the watch.”

The crowd was mesmerised as the watch swayed back and forth, light gleaming off its polished surface. Hundreds of pairs of eyes followed the swaying watch until, very unusually for Keith, the watch slipped through his fingers and fell to the floor with a loud bang. “Oh shite”, exclaimed Keith, in annoyance. According to hotel employees, the concert was abandoned and it took nearly two weeks to clean up the mess!

A directional appliance

A man walked into The Wander Inn bar in Johnstown with a steering wheel fixed to the front of his trousers. “Excuse me, Sir”, said the vigilant proprietor, Johnny Aylward, “but do you know you have a steering wheel on your pants.” ”I do, I know it only too bloody well”, said the man, “it’s driving me nuts.”