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May 22nd 2002

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Out of Control

Shortly after finding the body of Brendan Rushe, the 15 year old who disappeared after leaving a disco in Donegal Town, Chief Supt. Catherine Clancy gave an interview to Donegal Times. During it she claimed that there is sufficient manpower available at weekends to adequately police the streets of town. However, what we have experienced since is totally at variance with the Chief Super’s assertions. According to security staff, taxi men and fast food workers - front line recipients of late night aggression and loutish behaviour - there is a total lack of the type of garda presence necessary to tackle the anti-social element who invade this town at weekends. President of the Community Chamber, Ernan McGettigan, was not exaggerating when he said on North-West-Radio that unless something is done about this lack of manpower, somebody will be seriously hurt or even killed. His assertion that nobody should be afraid to walk the streets of Donegal Town at any time is a truism, but sadly not a reality.

The Irish Independent on 13th May under the heading ‘Night Clubs Must Control Rising Violence’ carried the following ‘Doctors in Donegal Town are now refusing to enter local nightclubs to treat casualties who are being assaulted on a routine basis at weekends. They have called on licencees to take greater responsibility concerning the numbers of young people admitted to the venues and the quantity of alcohol they are served.

“We are expected to pick our way through bodies and broken glass to get to these casualties, so now we are insisting that the casualties are brought to us”, said local GP Dr. Marie Drumgoole “we are dealing with young people who are literally comatosed from alcohol, falling and knocking themselves out. Most of the time they don’t know their own names”. Dr. Drumgoole continued “People are forgetting that alcohol is a drug. Everybody has to take responsibility - not just parents but the licensees who have to behave in some kind of responsible manner”.

A taxi driver quoted in the Democrat said that residents are being held to ransom, afraid to move out on weekend nights and made a plea ‘Give our town back to the people’.

On rradio, a Ballyshannon councillor describing similar conditions in his town suggested running down the numbers of police manning stations during the week to have sufficient available at weekends. He also favoured garda ‘blitzing’ specific towns on a random basis using all resources available.

By whatever means, something needs to be done. To start, nobody should be let into a place of entertainment selling alcohol without producing identification.

If they don’t have a card, they don’t get in. Nobody under 18 should be on a licensed premises during a late night exemption. Fast food outlets should close earlier or else employ security - they must take responsibility for incidents happening inside or outside their premises. More guards, highly visible, are needed on the streets from midnight on weekend nights - backed up by a prominently parked Black Maria on occasions. Special courts should be convened so that people from outside the jurisdiction cannot simply escape by paying a derisory amount in the police station allowing them to skip back to Northern Ireland with no conviction. The following weekend they can repeat their behaviour without fear of a record against them.

Last year, newly extended opening hours for licensed premises were introduced on the basis that longer drinking time would take the ‘binge’ element out of the social scene. This has not happened! It is now evident that the more time young people have to drink, the more they consume - sometimes with tragic consequences. The licencing hours should revert back to the old opening times - extensions should be scaled back and any premises with an underage conviction should not get any extended hours.

The election is over. Fianna Fail, with a strong law and order agenda, is back in power. Let us now see if all the talk of ‘zero tolerance’ and restoring the streets to the people is just that - talk - or if the government, together with the force charged with protecting us, have really the appetite to tackle the problem of public disorder.

To the Victors the Spoils

Gallagher, Coughlan and McGinley Triumph in South West Donegal

The John Bosco Centre was the focal point of intense political activity last Saturday morning as the mammoth task of counting the votes of Donegal South commenced. Initially quiet, with only enumerators, tally-men and the media present, as the day went on the crowd increased, so that, by lunchtime, the centre was a packed mass of chattering bodies.

Candidates had set up their own tables at which supporters kept tabs on figures supplied by runners from the count front. Radio and television journalists roved the floor trying to nab anyone who could put a few sensible words together on the situation as it stood. The tea and coffee counter did a brisk business, party activists grabbing a quick cuppa as they pored over figures and tried to work out what would happen next. A scene of frenetic activity and great excitement - could it be that all this is at an end with the advent of electronic voting?

North West Radio Donegal did a great job of bringing the whole occasion into the homes of south Donegal. On the air from 9am., Michael Daly anchored the programme from the new studios at Mill Row, while reporters Sean Perry, Greg Hughes and Phonsie Travers reported from the count centre, keeping ahead of the mass of facts and figures that were tumbling out by the minute. But perhaps the scoop of the day went to Highland Radio when, towards the end of the count, reporter Jerome Hughes provoked an outburst from an obviously angry Brian Gallagher, himself a previous Director of Elections for Fianna Fail, in which he charged that Jim White was used by the Fine Gael Party as a pawn to gather votes for Dinny McGinley. Mr Gallagher added that the Fine Gael party were a disgrace. This led to some booing among those listening.

At the end of the day however, it was as predicted. After eight counts it was all over. With final votes of 9281, 8932 and 7370, Pat the Cope, Mary Coughlan and Dinny McGinley were declared elected. The quota was 8909.

But whilst the Cope and Mary were front runners from the start, things were not so clear cut between Dinny McGinley and Jim White. The first preferences of all the candidates were: Cope (FF) 7740, Coughlan (FF) 7257, White (FG) 4680, McGinley (FG) 4378, Kelly (Ind) 3091; Doherty (SF) 2696, Pringle (Ind) 2630, Dignam (SF) 1133, Rogers (Lab) 1079, Breslin (Ind) 951

Breslin was eliminated on count one and her 951 votes distributed. Dignam went on count two (1148 distributed); Rogers on count three (1205); Pringle on count four (3078); Kelly on count five (3796) and Doherty on count seven (5269)

The Cope was elected on Count six having exceeded the quota and his surplus took in Mary on Count seven.

Throughout all this, right up to count five, White had stayed ahead of McGinley but when the transfers of Pringle were distributed, Dinny went in front for the first time (5216-5161). By count eight, with Doherty’s votes distributed, it was all over. McGinley was then on 7370 with White at 5930.

Mary, Pat the Cope and Dinny were declared elected to tumultuous acclaim and will take their places in the 30th Dail in the first week of June. To the victors, the spoils - but don’t write off the three young pretenders - Kelly, Doherty and Pringle - they fought a tremendous campaign - we have not heard the last of them!


The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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