Believe it or not, I came across a case last week where an Irish start-up company is being forced to import seaweed from Norway and Iceland because it can’t get official permission to use the best of stuff that is available in abundance around our own coastline.

The company in question is BioAtlantis which develops natural antibiotics from kelp and other seaweeds. There are many kelp forests off our coastline but the company appears to be knocking its head against a brick-wall in its efforts to use the local weed.

Following years of scientific research into their proposed products, they applied for an off-shore licence last July but are still waiting for a reply from the Department of the Environment which is being advised on the matter by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Prior to making an application, BioAtlantis spoke to officials in the Department of the Marine who had indicated their satisfaction with the plans. So much for fast-tracking new jobs in the technological and scientific area.

Musical Grand Marshalls

It was great to see Val Doonican as Grand Marshall of our Saint Patrick’s Day Parade as it was a small recognition from City Hall of the enormous contribution he has made in raising Waterford’s international profile down the years. Personally, I believe he should have been honoured with the Freedom of the City years ago but that’s another story.

I also spotted an old acquaintance of mine, Eamonn Campbell, as Grand Marshall of the Drogheda Parade. A member of The Dubliners, Eamonn’s long, white hair and bushy beard are well known to several generations of fans and television viewers but, like many others, I always thought he was the quintessential Dub.

So, I was surprised to discover that he is not a Jackeen at all, rather a proud Drogheda man who was astounded and thrilled to be accorded such an honour by his native place.

Eamonn revealed that he was born in William Street in a house that had since been replaced by a hairdressing salon. Music fans will know that, apart from being a member of The Dubliners, Eamonn also has a successful career as a session musician and an independent record producer.

The rising price of cigarettes

The government is said to be considering a new tax hike on the price of cigarettes in the imminent budget. The fags already cost an arm and a leg and I wonder would a court case, heard in Tullamore District Court last week, be the shape of things to come.

Before Judge Gerard Haughton was a 75-year-old father of sixteen children who was charged with selling cigarettes door to door in the town. The court heard the defendant had cigarettes worth €10,000 in his possession when stopped by gardai.

Despite pleas from defence solicitor, Donal Farrelly, that his client was in poor financial circumstances, the Judge wasn’t impressed and imposed a fine of €1,000. Pointing out that it was estimated that as much as 20 per cent of all cigarettes sales in the Republic were illegal, he said the State was losing out heavily on revenue as a result.

Of course, the fags are bad for people but, despite that, they are an everyday necessity for many thousands of people and, if they are priced out of reach, underground sales will blossom and there will be many more ‘agents’ selling them door to door in estates all over the country.

Rover gets higher and higher

Speaking of drugs, a large stash of cannabis was recovered by gardai up the road in Kilkenny recently in very unusual circumstances. The drama began when a couple, living in a rural location outside the city, noticed that their family Labrador was behaving very oddly. Normally playful and energetic, he had become moody and lethargic and had taken to lying down in the middle of the public road where, despite oncoming traffic, he refused to budge and forced motorists to steer a course around him.

Increasingly worried, his concerned owners decided to watch his movements and discovered that the dog was spending a lot of time near a stone-wall on the edge of their property, a place he rarely visited before. And, on investigation, it turned out that Rover had discovered a hiding place in the wall used by as a storage/pick-up spot by a city-based drug gang and was gobbling down the drug at a rate of knots.

Despite a stake-out by gardai, the criminals did not return to the spot but, at least, there is good news about the Labrador who is reported to be fine again and back to his normal self following treatment by his local vet.

Late night delights

Late on St Patrick’s Night, Johnny and Mary were making their way home after a great day out and they stopped at a certain takeaway to buy a little snack. She bought two battered sausages and a bag of chips and he asked for a quarter-pounder with lots of onions. They were so peckish they decided to eat in the shop and everything was going well until, suddenly, Johnny started to go urghhh, urghhh, arghhh, arghhh. He wiped his mouth and tongue violently on his sleeve until he discovered the object of his distress. There for all to see was a load of curly, black hair that had found its way onto his burger.

Mary was outraged. “How dare you give my Johnny a burger with hair on it”, she cried, and, before anybody could stop her, she marched inside the counter and into the kitchen. The cook, a big swarthy man with a shock of black, curly hair, didn’t hear her coming and, to her horror, she saw him flattening a big quarter-pounder by pressing it into his armpit and squeezing down hard with his arm.

“That’s awful”, she shouted, “you nearly choked my poor Johnny with your smelly armpit hair because of the way you make your stinking burgers.”

One of the women who worked behind the counter had followed Mary into the kitchen and she snorted at Mary’s protestations. “That’s nothing, love”, she said with a sniff, “if you think that’s disgusting, you should see the way he makes the hole in the batter for the onion rings.”