Galway County Council has really put the cat among the pigeons with its new proposals to abandon its policy of providing halting sites for Travellers. In future, the local authority intends to accommodate families in rented houses on private estates.

Word from the West is that, especially in an election year, councillors are terrified of an even greater backlash from the public at large about the new housing policy than they ever were about halting sites. They are also aware that there is no provision in the new policy that requires the local authority to inform residents in private estates that houses in their midst will be rented out to Travellers. The proposed Accommodation Programme is due to run from this year until 2013.

Already there have been cries that such a move would reduce property values and would result in a flood of complaints from home owners who are paying large mortgages. Some home owners have pledged that they would not tolerate the County Council turning their areas into local authority enclaves behind their backs.

But the local authority seems firm in its resolve. Galway’s Director of Services for Housing, Frank Gilmore, said policy now focused on supplying conventional housing which was the desired option for the majority of Travellers. Appealing to the councillors and estate residents not to tar the entire Traveller community with the one brush, Mr. Gilmore said each case would be monitored and, if everything was found to be suitable, the Council would enter into a long-term contract with the landlord.

So far, Waterford City Council has no such plans although the recent Traveller feud has caused serious problems for officials. Not too long ago, the Council members voted to build twelve, four-bedroom bungalows in Ballybeg but now, as I understand it, there are plans to place just three families in houses over the next two years and only then after careful vetting of the people in question.

Unfortunately, as I’ve suggested before, the feud has set back by many years relations between the Settled and Travelling communities. Of course, there are Traveller families who want nothing more than to get on with their lives the same as the rest of us but the sad fact of the matter is that most people don’t want to live anyway near them because of all the recent shootings and fire-bombings. It should not be forgotten that the families in the same streets as the attacked homes were also affected by the violence and, indeed, some homes of Settled people were attacked in error.

It is one, big, bloody mess and, even with genuine good will on all sides, it’s going to take a long time for the dust to settle and for attitudes to soften. Those responsible for the feud have a lot to answer for.


Queuing up to buy new houses – honest!



There was a touch of the ‘good old days’ down the road in Enniscorthy last week when would-be home owners queued for hours on end with their booking deposits in an effort to grab one of the first phase of new houses in the town. From the photographs I saw, the new houses on the Glasan estate are terraced homes but at prices ranging between €146,900 and €180,000 there was no shortage of takers, recession or no recession. The developer and builders are Neville and Sons who are well known in the Waterford area.


A new job for Packie?



Packie Bonnner remains one of the most popular of our former international footballers and, for many, he was one of the real stars of that exciting adventure that was Italia 90. At present, Packie is employed as the FAI’s technical director and, as well as being a television presenter, he was previously goalkeeping coach to the senior international squad.

But now, the Donegal man is contemplating a very different career because he is being hotly pursued by Fianna Fail to be a candidate in this year’s European Elections for the Ulster/Connaught Constituency. Senior party mandarins are said to believe that the former goalkeeper has the name-recognition and mass appeal that would ensure his success in that very competitive, three-seat region.


Is perjury now common place?



Former Waterford Judge, William Harnett, is very unhappy about the way many cases are being dealt with in his various courts.

Basically, hundreds of motorists are walking into his court, swearing on a bible that they never received a fixed charge, penalty-points notice through the post and are walking out again with the summons struck out by Judge Harnett who has little other option in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.

The Judge, whose patience is said to be wearing very thin, has frequently asked, sarcastically, do we really have such a terrible postal system in this country but he says it in a tone of voice that suggests he believes there is little wrong with the postal service.

Up and down the country, the hard question is being asked. Are certain motorists lying through their teeth and committing perjury by taking a bible in their hand before calling on God to witness what they say is true in order to avoid relatively minor fines? Nobody has been able to give a specific answer so far but it’s pretty clear that the worst is suspected.


There’s often more than one problem!



An elderly lady from the Ballybricken area went to see her local GP and in a worried tone of voice outlined her problem. “Doctor, I just don’t know what the problem is but I seem to be passing wind much too frequently. It’s not a problem socially because I don’t make any noise and my wind is clean and fresh but, all the same, I feel it shouldn’t be happening. Indeed, I’ve passed wind twice since I’ve been in here talking to you.”

The doctor nodded wisely, gave her a prescription for some tablets and told her to visit him again in ten days time.

As directed, she completed the course of tablets but when she returned to see the doctor he could tell she was not in a good mood. “What kind of medicine did you give me”, she complained bitterly, “I’m still passing wind but now it stinks to high heaven.”

“Don’t worry, we are making progress”, insisted the doctor, “now that we have your sinus problem cleared up, we’ll work on your hearing next and then the actual passing of your wind.”