Unfortunately, this is partly a ‘Give out About the City Council Week’ but a couple of items merit being highlighted. The first concerns the St. Otteran’s Cemetery at Ballinaneesagh and a plea for the City Council to erect a site map somewhere prominently in its precincts.

On Friday last, our offices were visited by two mature ladies who are sisters (nee Drohan) originally from Waterford but now residing in Limerick and St. Alban’s in England. They were both visibly distressed as this was the second time they had made the journey to Waterford in an unsuccessful effort to visit their father’s grave in Ballinaneesagh.

John Drohan died in 1937 when they were very young and they have no recollection of where the grave is. At the City Council offices they were given detailed information as to the plot in question by way of row and number. But, when they got to the cemetery, there was no way of knowing where any row or plot was because there is no site plan on public display. Apparently, the cemetery manager is extremely knowledgeable and knows the lay-out very well but, unfortunately for the sisters, he was not on duty on the two occasions they called. The sisters hope to return for a third time before Christmas and it does seem that a large site-map, prominently displayed, would provide a valuable service for all visitors.

High cost for ‘black-bag
visitors to dump

The second gripe involves a visit I made to the former landfill site at the Lacken Road on Friday morning last. I had an old television set to dispose of and, as I was going to the dump anyway and as it was two weeks to go before our next black-bin collection, I took two black sacks of household rubbish with me. If they were put into a black bin and pushed down they would have taken up less than half the space. The content of the sacks was proper black-bin material as it had been carefully sorted.

Once there, I had no problem putting the television into the nominated cradle but the man in charge told me I would have to pay €15 in tags for the two modest black sacks. I pointed out that the City Council collects a full bin from outside my house for €7.50 so why on earth would it charge €15 for half a bin I took there myself?

The man was extremely courteous and polite and assured me that €15 was the correct charge and he even showed me a price-list to underline his point.

So, back in the office, I rang City Hall and asked why it was more expensive to take a bag of refuse to the dump than to have it collected. Again, the person I spoke to was most helpful and explained that the high charge was to actually discourage people from taking mixed refuse in black sacks to the landfill site.

“We want people to separate their refuse into the black, green and brown bins and, if it was too easy for them to throw everything into one sack and take it to the dump, we would be defeating our own goal”, said the spokesperson.

I’m sure they have thought it out but the logic sounds dubious to me. There are blackguards all over this country throwing thousands of tons of rubbish and worse out of cars and vans into hedges and ditches. Surely, if somebody goes to the trouble of driving to the dump and is willing to pay a fair charge they should be made welcome and facilitated. By imposing a higher charge to callers at the landfill site, the City Council is definitely succeeding in discouraging people but I strongly suspect the policy is counter-productive.

The separation of refuse and recycling in the home is to be encouraged and supported but, surely, it is a separate issue.

Forgotten coalminers

People sometimes forget that this country once had a thriving coalmining industry and now a number of former coalminers have launched a campaign seeking compensation for ill health they allege was contracted as a consequence of their employment.

The National Coalminers Association represents over 2000 men and a spokesperson, Gerry O’Connell, said their key demand was the establishment of a compensation tribunal for miners. To that end, a test case would be mounted against the State in the High Court. Mr. O’Connell pointed out that successive governments, from the 1940s on, had promised compensation packages but nothing was ever paid out to men whose life expectancy was significantly lower than the national average.

One of the claimants is John Clinton who began working in the coalmines of Laois and Kilkenny in the 1940s. He was badly injured in a work accident in 1977 and was eventually awarded £34,000 but, because the Rossmore Mine closed down and the necessary insurance was not in place, he received nothing.

Another claimant, Peter Kealy, said the mines were disgraceful places to work. There was chronic dust inhalation and sometimes it was so thick you couldn’t see in front of you. They produced coal that kept the country going for years and now he and his colleagues wanted justice.

Belt up guys, please

Believe it or not, it has emerged that only three years since five secondary school girls lost their lives in a bus accident at Kentstown in County Meath, most secondary school students are still not wearing seat-belts on school buses.

A recent investigation found that not one of fifteen secondary students traveling to school was wearing a seat belt. During the journey, some sat alone while others sat beside companions but they were all in breach of the new regulations.

However, on a different run involving primary school children on the same morning, every single child was strapped into their seat because there was a volunteer adult on board who ensured that the children were safely belted up.

A number of drivers with Bus Eireann and with private companies confirmed that safety provisions on their buses were being widely ignored by secondary-school students.

One driver with twenty years experience said it was not possible for a driver with forty or fifty passengers on board to see who was, or was not, wearing a seat belt. A driver could ask passengers to put on their belts before moving off but, once on the road, his or her job was to get to the destination safely.

Offensive miraculous medal!

There is a bit of a brouhaha down the road in Wexford concerning a woman who claims her son has been the victim of excessive political correctness at his school.

The 16-year-old boy in question is a pupil at the Faithful Companions of Jesus Secondary School in Bunclody. The school rules state that girls are permitted to wear simple jewellery but boys are not and the pupil in question was instructed by his principal to stop wearing a small miraculous medal around his neck under his shirt.

According to his angry mother, the boy was given the medal by his late grandmother and he has worn it constantly since his First Holy Communion. The mother admits that, on two previous occasions, her son had been instructed by the principal not to wear the medal. However, he forgot to remove it on the occasion in question and it was taken from him and confiscated.

The mother said she knew the medal would be returned to her son in due course but she believed it was wrong for a school with a Catholic ethos to impose such a ban on a pupil who was otherwise neat and tidy and in full compliance with other school regulations. In nearby Gorey Community School, said the woman, a pupil was allowed to wear a Muslim hijab. She had no problem with that but her son should also be allowed to wear a discreet religious emblem if he wished.

I reckon this is a subject that is going to raise its head more than a few times in the future.

Feisty Judge

The sometimes controversial Judge, John Neilan, was his usual outspoken self in the local District Court last week.

Before the court was a 19-year-old man who was facing two charges relating to the Public Order Act. The court was told the man had been begging in Longford and he had failed to comply with a direction from a Garda to leave the area and he was also accused of preventing the free passage of a member of the public.

Defence solicitor Frank Gearty said his client, a Romanian national, had no money and was not receiving any social welfare.

However, Judge Neilan remarked that the defendant was very well dressed and that he was sporting what looked to be a very expensive hairdo with blond highlights. “How much did it cost to have your hair tinted”, asked the Judge, who expressed surprise when told it had cost €7. “Mmmm”, said the Judge, “they must have a barrel of that liquid wherever you got that done.”

Handing down a five-month suspended sentence, Judge Neilan told the defendant there were many elderly Irish citizens who were a lot worse off than him and very few people were speaking up on their behalf. And, I’d say, a lot of people would agree with him on that.