The following is an extract from a longer item about US President-elect Barack Obama that appeared in this column almost two years ago.

“United States Senator, Barack Obama, is widely regarded as Senator Hilary Clinton’s main opponent for the Democratic nomination for next year’s US presidential election and, at the time of writing, three Irish counties, Offaly, Carlow and Meath, are claiming him as ‘one of their own’!

“Though strongly associated with the State of Illinois, Senator Obama, whose father was from Kenya, was born in Hawaii and the Irish bloodline comes through his mother, Ann Dunham, who grew up in a small town in Kansas. It is established that Senator Obama’s Irish ancestor was a man named Falmouth Kearney who left Ireland in 1850.

“Whatever about his Irish county of origin, if the huge Irish vote swings behind him, Senator Obama has a great chance of becoming the first Afro-Irish-American President of the United States.”


President JFK’s Irish Cadets

And as America chose a new President-elect last week, many minds were cast back to another time and another President. Forty-five years ago this month, President John F Kennedy was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery following a state funeral on a scale never before seen. In a new documentary to be screened on TG4 at 9.30pm on Wednesday next, November 19th, a group of young Irish army cadets who performed the final military honours at the President’s grave will tell their remarkable story for the first time.

‘Kennedy’s Cadets’, produced by Geraldine Heffernan for the Ring-based Nemeton Productions, tells the extraordinary story of this group of Irish teenagers who, in the space of 48 hours, found themselves catapulted to the forefront of the world’s media as they stood beside the grave of the most powerful man in the Western World.

Stunning archive footage, never previously seen, of the young cadets performing the drill that had so impressed President Kennedy on his visit to Ireland in June 1963 brings to life an extraordinary event.

The film is produced and directed by Geraldine who works with Nemeton Television Productions in Ring and is edited by Liz Walshe.


Halloween should be banned

We all know about the problems caused in Waterford over the Halloween period and it does seem that the ‘festivities’ caused a lot more trouble than they were worth. Apart from outright vandalism, the combination of serious underage drinking and large bonfires is a recipe for a major accident waiting to happen.

The newspapers from other counties also make frightening reading because were full of reports about underage drinking, vandalism, violence and, most scary of all, widespread arson.

Our friends down the road in Wexford suffered a spate of serious arson attacks that are being investigated by gardai. Damage estimated at hundreds of thousands of euro was caused to farms in the Killinick, Kilmore and Horetown areas where barns full of hay were set alight. Another fire was deliberately set in Killihard which was dealt with by the Fire Brigade but, while attending to that, a major fire erupted in a hay-shed in Murrintown in which valuable machinery was also destroyed.

In Horetown, Foulksmills, twenty cattle managed to break free from their pens in a shed that was burned to the ground. A blaze at Crylough, Ballymore, was one of the biggest seen in the county for years. Over 1500 bales of hay were destroyed and the field was described as looking like it was the site of an aeroplane crash. Three houses in Enniscorthy’s Esmonde Road have been burned down by arsonists recently, the most recent blaze occurring on Halloween.

In Stradbally in County Offaly a gang of masked and hooded youths went on a rampage down the main street attacking shops, houses and cars. Then a group of about twenty boys and girls, who accumulated hundreds if not thousands of eggs over a period of two weeks, used their stockpile to attack passing cars and vans and a number of collisions almost occurred. There were also incidents of vandalism in Portlaoise and Mountmellick.

Nearer to home, there were serious disturbances in Clonmel on Halloween night that resulted in four gardai being injured. Apparently, the officers attempted to arrest a person who was in danger of falling into a bonfire when they were set upon by a section of the crowd.

Unfortunately, the above incidents are just a taste of what was happening all over the country during a weekend that has become an annual nightmare for gardai, fire and ambulance services and for law abiding citizens especially the elderly and vulnerable. Halloween should be banned.


Playgrounds for the elderly

The possible provision of playgrounds for the elderly is being seriously by several local authorities around the country at present and it’s not so off-the-wall as one might think.

Such playgrounds are commonplace in various parts of mainland Europe and they are very successful. Typically, they contain a variety of massage and cycling machines that are specifically designed to provide gentle exercise for hips, legs and torso.

The authorities believe that by promoting good health among the elderly through such facilities, society is saved an enormous amount of money in the long term. At present, the only one in existence in this country is in Navan, County Meath, but Killarney Town Council is close to establishing one in its community and others will, no doubt, follow suit.


The Tiger’s corpse causing trouble for GAA club

It seems the recession has dealt a cruel blow to the future plans of the famous James Stephens GAA Club in Kilkenny.

A year ago, the club purchased 37 acres of land on the Kells Road for €2.2m where a modern club complex is to be built. The money was to have been part provided by the sale of club property comprising 2.8 acres in the heart of the city at Nuncio Road which had been valued at almost €3m.

However, when the sale was conducted at The Newpark Hotel two weeks ago, there wasn’t even one bid put forward for the land.

James Stephens development officer, Michael Moore, said they were going to keep their nerve and not sell the last piece of green real-estate in the city for less than it was worth. They had a problem in that they bought the land on the Kells Road during the dying kick of the Celtic Tiger and now they were trying to sell over the Tiger’s corpse.

Mr Moore said the club did not regret initiating the move which was designed to meet requirements for the next fifty years and they were under no pressure from the bank or Croke Park to dispose of the city land. The hope and expectation now was that Croke Park would come on board and help the club sort out the dilemma they found themselves in.


Donal Ring, Elton John and Long John Baldry

Music fans will be interested to learn that the famous Donal Ring Ceili Band is still going strong and reaching out to new audiences. Two Sundays ago, Donal and his band played a 50th. anniversary concert to a full-house in The Everyman Palace Theatre in Cork.

The band played its first ever date in The Glen Hall in Blackpool in October 1958 and has been going strong ever since, packing out halls at home and abroad. Through the years, about sixty different musicians, including sons and daughters, have graced the band with their presence and the current line-up features a son, daughter and grandson.

Incidentally, talking about music and nostalgia, there is great excitement about the fact that Elton John is to play a major concert at the new Thomond Park in Limerick next summer. But, I wonder, does the superstar remember his first visit to Limerick in 1968 when he played The Stella Ballroom as the keyboard player in Long John Baldry’s (his big hit was ‘Let The Heartaches Begin’) backing band.

Donal Ring and Long John Baldry? Dammit, I really am getting on in years but I do keep up with new trends. At present, I’m a big fan of hip-hop garage thrash as long as there is a certain amount of swamp rock and house music thrown into the mix. As Billy Joel insists ‘It’s Still Rock’n’Roll To Me’.