Congratulations to our friends in Kilkenny and Wexford who heard last week that the futures of St Luke’s and Wexford General hospitals had been secured by TDs Phil Hogan and Brendan Howlin who are both members of cabinet.

“The people of Wexford want, demand and are going to get the highest standards of healthcare,” said Minister Howlin as he announced a €20 million investment in Wexford General Hospital. Minister Hogan made similar comments when he announced that €13m had been ring-fenced for capital developments at St Luke’s.

Certainly, nobody will begrudge the money to Kilkenny and Wexford but it does underline once again how important it is to have a voice at the cabinet table. I haven’t the slightest doubt that if Deputies Hogan and Howlin were not senior ministers, both hospitals would still be whistling for their money in these difficult times.

And I’ll make another prediction now that I would be very confident about. If the Fine Gael/Labour coalition lasts its full term, one way or another, there will be a Third level campus in Kilkenny before it goes out of office. It might be connected to WIT, CIT, or both, but I’m told Phil Hogan is determined to make it happen and he is a very determined man when he puts his mind to something.

Former Fianna Fail minister, Martin Cullen, had plenty of detractors and critics in Waterford when he was in office but many of them are only now realising just how much he achieved for the city and county. For a start, we wouldn’t have the outer ring road and neither would we have the dual carriageway from Waterford to Dublin. In fact, right up to the very end, Martin Cullen had to battle at the cabinet table against powerful voices who felt that a dual carriageway was unnecessary and that ‘a new, two-lane road would do’. For the time being, it would appear that we in Waterford are back to hoping for crumbs from the big table.

Speed cameras are waste of time, said Judge

It emerged last week that Judge Mary O’Halloran considers speed cameras to be a waste of time. She was speaking at Listowel District Court where a list of 19 speeding prosecutions failed. Nine were withdrawn by the State and the other ten were thrown out. Most of the prosecutions resulted from a speed-trap at Billeragh on the Listowel to Tralee road. According to a court report, some cases suffered from a lack of sufficient evidence and the apparent non-postage of speeding offence notifications.

“We seem to have a great knack in this country of inventing systems that don’t work,” said Judge O’Halloran. “All these prosecutions are doing is clogging up the court’s time and the revenue generated is zilch,” she added.

The foolproof system was the old way when gardai wrote out tickets on the side of the road and kept their own copy which gave them their evidence there and then, insisted Judge O’Halloran.

Is there really a shortage of priests in Ireland?

Fr Michael Commane is a Dominican priest who has spent much of his career teaching and writing and he says that every time he hears about a so-called shortage of priests, he shakes his head in disbelief because he doesn’t accept there is a shortage of priests at all.

For a start, he claims that the manpower available in parishes is almost certainly not being used to best effect although he accepts that most priests are hardworking and dedicated. But, he points out, there are many priests in religious communities throughout the country who are underused.

And no matter how eager or willing they might be to serve in communities, members of religious orders must be invited by diocesan bishops if they want to work in parishes. Unfortunately, says Fr Commane, from what he knows, there is little if any serious dialogue on a national level between bishops and the various congregations and orders.

Speaking purely in the Dominican context, he said his Order had priories around Ireland that could easily be involved in formal parochial work and he was aware of many men who would relish that role and be excellent at it. Such work was already being carried out with success by Dominicans in Tallaght, Limerick, Galway and Waterford, he pointed out.

So, says Fr Commane, new thinking is needed and, before the idea of a ‘shortage of priests’ in Ireland takes further hold, bishops, diocesan priests and religious congregations should come together to discuss the real manpower issues within the Irish Catholic Church. “There are extraordinary people working at the coalface of the Irish church at present and, with a mix of faith, hope and courage, great things could happen within it,” insists Fr Commane.

Raising hell!

There is only one thing worse than letting your future wife down and that is letting your future wife down in public! Last weekend, newly-weds to be, Thomas and Annie, were attending the required pre-marriage course and the priest was stressing to all the couples how important it was to identify and appreciate the things that were really special to their partners.

“For instance,” said the priest turning to Thomas, “can you name and describe Annie’s favourite flower?”

Thomas beamed widely, delighted that he hadn’t been caught out by some really hard question. “It’s Odlums, isn’t it, love,” he said cheerfully as he put his arm around his future wife’s shoulder for good effect.

The priest said he had never before heard such foul language from a young woman. She would have to curb her temper and, if she wanted to get married, she would have to come back and finish the course.