Eagle-eyed Customs officials at Shannon Airport were a bit taken aback recently when they seized no less than 10 rhinoceros horns over a three week period. The horns had a combined value of €450,000 and were the first seizures of their kind made in this country under the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Officials refused to say what country the horns came from but they did confirm that they had been sent to Dublin Zoo for analysis. Apparently, some people like to hang rhinoceros horns on their walls to brag about their bravery but it has also been suggested that such horns are often reduced to powder and taken as an aphrodisiac or medicine.

Red faces in the council chamber

There was an embarrassing mistake made by local authority officials in Wexford recently that, understandably enough, resulted in a few red faces. The drama started early last week when two members of Wexford Borough Council, businessmen Councillor Jim Allen of Fine Gael and Councillor Fergie Kehoe of Fianna Fail, received letters from the Town Clerk informing them that they had not paid their commercial rates on or before December 31st and, consequently, they were to lose their seats on the Council under the provisions of the 1941 Local Government Act.

Both men were shocked and embarrassed. Councillor Kehoe revealed that he had actually paid the rates on his restaurant but had missed the January 31st deadline. Councillor Allen pointed out that he had moved his computer business out of the building in question and had paid his rates up to the time he vacated the premises. However it was all to no avail and the men were informed by Council officials that their seats were forfeited but they could seek nomination and co-option back onto the Council by their former colleagues.

But then both political parties swung into action. Fine Gael engaged a barrister and was considering taking out an injunction to prevent Councillor Allen’s disqualification when Fianna Fail Headquarters came to the rescue and solved the problem by discovering that the 1941 Act had been amended in 1994 and 2001 with the result that councillors would not lose their seats simply by forgetting to pay their rates but only if they refused to pay over the money on foot of a subsequent court order.

When the Council met last week, the Town Clerk, Pat Collins, and the Director of Services, Adrian Doyle, both apologised to the two men. “We got it wrong and for that I apologise to all the councillors and, in particular, to the two councillors concerned”, said Mr Doyle.

There was a little bit of a side show when Councillor Paddy Nolan of Fianna Fail strongly criticised The Wexford People newspaper for highlighting the disqualification of his colleague, Councillor Kehoe, on its front-page with no mention at all of Councillor Allen. But that fizzled out when it was explained that the newspaper didn’t know about Councillor Allen and only knew about Councillor Kehoe because the Councillor, himself, rang up to tell them about his situation just as they were going to press!

‘After hours’ publican shoots himself in the foot

There was an unusual ‘found-on’ story up the West last week involving the supporters of a newly elected politician and a publican who, it turned out, shot himself in the foot when he called the gardai to his premises.

At Claremorris District Court, Judge Mary Devins was informed about a breach of the licensing laws at The Goat Tavern in the town at 3.05am on June 29th last. The court was told by publican Jimmy Gallagher that a group of supporters of local election Independent candidate, Richard Finn, was holding a party in the pub to celebrate his election earlier that day. Mr Gallagher said that Councillor Finn had left the pub sometime during the evening but his supporters stayed on and his bar manager couldn’t get them to leave.

Mr Gallagher said he was monitoring the situation on security cameras upstairs in the premises and he was concerned at the lateness of the hour. He also knew that all the town’s taxis would be signing off for business soon so, if the people didn’t leave then, they would have no way of getting home as many were from outside the town. Under those circumstances he himself rang the gardai. They arrived to find two people smoking at the side-door and another 25 inside the bar which had fresh drinks on the counter.

Fining Mr Gallagher €500, Judge Devins was clearly not impressed and remarked that the Garda Superintendent in Claremorris should ask questions of the gardai in question because they had failed to prosecute anybody who was found on the premises that night.

Councillor Davy Daniels on the demon drink!

Everybody knows that Councillor Davy Daniels is a politician who has topped polls consistently for many years but nobody can actually put a finger on what exactly his ‘X Factor’ is. However, we may have caught a glimpse of it at WIT last weekend when Councillor Daniels was part of a panel discussing ‘The Effects of Alcohol on Modern Society’.

The auditorium was packed to capacity and you could hear a pin drop when one young woman in the audience got to her feet and addressed Davy directly in an angry voice. “With great respect, Councillor, I’m simply fed up listening to everybody on this panel waffling on about this important subject. You are an elected representative and I’m asking you to plainly state what you think about drink.”

All eyes were on the tall figure of Councillor Daniels, a life-long teetotaller, as he slowly rose to his feet. He cast his eyes around the audience before settling his stare on the young woman. “Thank you for your question”, he said, his voice quivering ever so slightly. “If you mean the demon drink that poisons the mind, pollutes the body, desecrates family life and inflames sinners, then I am totally against it. But if you mean the elixir of good cheer, the creator of sentimental songs, that shield against winter chill, the product that yields so much tax that it puts badly needed funds into State coffers to comfort the poor and less well off, then I’m all for it. This is my position, young lady, and I will not compromise.”

The other panel members were green with envy as Councillor Daniels bowed to the audience before sitting down to a standing ovation.