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March 13th 2002

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Lessons To Be learned

The day after our last issue, the body of young Brendan Rushe was found, lying just off the channel in Donegal Bay. While it was a sad end to a search that had gone on for nine days, there was also deep relief that the discovery had been made. If anything positive can be plucked from such a tragic event, it was the overwhelming goodwill of the local community and the cross-border co-operation that it engendered.

While questions have arisen since the disappearance of the Castlederg teenager - with an inquest pending and emotions still raw this is not the time. In weeks to come, events leading up to this tragic happening should become clear. In the meantime it is up to community leaders and parents as well as the gardai to put in train disciplines and exercise responsibilities to prevent an occurrence such as this happening again.

It is too simplistic to blame the gardai for all the perceived wrongs in our after hours culture, when thousands of teenagers throng our streets many out of their minds with alcohol. Should those kids be there in the first place? Should those over 18 carry identity cards? Do we really need our licensed premises to have late night exemptions every weekend?

Contrary to public perception, a senior garda source has told Donegal Times that there are ample resources available to police Donegal Town on vulnerable nights. Before each weekend, briefings are held where manning levels are decided depending on how busy senior officers expect the period to be. He also made the point that Ballyshannon District has also to police other busy towns such as Killybegs and Bundoran each weekend.

This problem of weekend binge drinking and public disorder is not peculiar to Donegal Town - it is spread over every medium and large town in Ireland and the initiative announced by the Minister for Justice last week ‘Operation Encounter’ is just the latest in a series attempting to combat it. So while each community feels it is on its own and things are worse on its patch - this is not so - the problems of teenage drinking, drug taking and public disorder are prevalent all over the country and there is only so much the Gardai can do about it.

The finding of Brendan’s body will at least give some consolation to his family. But if we do not bring in changes there will be other Brendans. Word must go out that there is no underage admission to pubs or nite clubs, that public-order miscreants will be charged and face court proceedings - that the softly softly approach is no more. Parents must play their part, as must educators and community leaders. It is a multi-layered problem but one that must be tackled for the wellbeing of our young generation as well as that of the towns in which they gather for recreation.

Judge fines street trader one shilling!

Shay Carbin, Padraig Pearse (Joe Breslin), Doctor Walsh (Tony McGroary), Judge Huntingdon-Smythe (Paddy Meehan), Niall MacGiolla Bhride (Brian McLaughlin), Court Clerk (PJ Dunleavy), RIC Officer (Frank Galligan).

Last Saturday evening at the Courthouse a Co. Donegal man, Niall MacGiolla Bhride, was fined the princely sum of one shilling sterling or, failing to pay, a week in ‘Londonderry’ gaol. In sentencing the poor Creeslough street market trader, a stern looking High Court judge, Nigel Huntingdon-Smythe said that he would not tolerate native Irish people either speaking or writing their names in a foreign language i.e. Gaelic.

But reader, do not worry, this was only a re-enactment of the famous MacGiolla Bhride case of 1906 in which the then young barrister Padraig Pearse defended Creeslough man Niall MacGiolla Bhride, a vegetable street trader who had committed the grievous crime of displaying his name in the Irish language on his donkey cart in the town of Dunfanaghy. The late P.M. Gallagher, Lisdanar House, Tirconaill St., prepared the brief assisted by the late Patrick McBrearty, Bridgend. MacGiolla Bhride and Conradh na Gaeilge appealed the fine. The case ended up in the High Court and was defended by Padraig Pearse.

As part of the Donegal Heritage festival McGarrigle Lectures, Donegal Courthouse was packed to capacity last Saturday to witness a re-enactment of this case in what proved to be a most humorous and entertaining evening. Sections were taken from the actual case papers in Co. Donegal Library.

When Niall MacGiolla Bhride (Brian McLaughlin) entered the courtroom to tell his story, the audience was in raptures of laughter. Then the case proper - Court Clerk (PJ Dunleavy) called “All Rise”. This saw the bumbling High Court judge (Paddy Meehan) enter and fall scattering case papers everywhere. The part of Chief Constable McGowran, who issued the original summons, was played to perfection by journalist Frank Galligan complete with authentic Cavan accent. Padraig Pearse (Joe Breslin, Frosses Drama Group) excelled as did Dr. Walsh (Tony McGroary). The voice of ‘ghost’ narrator/streetsinger, Seamus Carabin filled the courtroom as never before.

This unusual sketch was written by Alec Reid and directed by Simon Waugh, ably assisted by the Heritage Committee. Following the lectures - wine and cheese were served in the courtroom and later the judge was helped home.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

Tel: +353-73-22860 Fax: +353-73-22937