DONEGAL TIMES

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March 8th 2006

Lá Fhéile Pádraig

In my earliest memories, St. Patrick’s Day was a Big One! Ranking only behind Christmas in the holy day succession stakes, the 17th March held a few aces. It fell in the middle of abstemious Lent - and it involved some degree of pomp and ceremony. Having been off all things sweet since Ash Wednesday, our Patron Saint’s feast day was a feast - literally. We stuffed ourselves with chocolates, sticky toffees and licorice until we nearly burst.
We didn’t have a parade as such, but the Leghowney Pipe Band might march round the town in the afternoon, in its wake hordes of young ruffians miming the musicians as they stepped out in gleaming spat, kilt, sporran, tunic, shawl, and Glengary cap.
My favourite was the big drum - played, I think, by Hugh McGlinchey. I strutted behind the band, thumping an imaginary mini-Lambeg in time with the Main Street barber while, beside me, my cohorts would be giving the kettles a beating or, cheeks puffed out, blowing lustily into the pipes. Hopalong and the Lone Ranger were forgotten - for that day we were no longer cowboys, but those men in their kilted tunics, who could bring the town to a standstill with a mere practice skirl of a pipe.
But before all this there was the mass. On Sundays or other saints day, we weren’t exactly rarin’ to go - but St. Patrick’s Day was different. Dressed up in our short-trousered suits, green badges on one lapel and a huge bunch of droopy shamrocks on the other, we couldn’t wait to get to the chapel.
Once there, we nudged and fidgeted as the priest droned through his latin rites. We were waiting for something to happen!
And then it did! From the back of the church we heard an order shouted in Irish - then the rythmical stomp of marching feet behind us. A shiver ran up the spine and we welled with pride. It was our own LDF men, led by a colour party, parading up to the altar to present the shamrock to the celebratory priest (Fr. Deeney, I think).
We were overcome with emotion - this was even better than the cavalry arriving at the last minute to rescue the wagon train to the deafening cheers of the fourpennies. These were our men - and the officer in front, with his sword held cermoniously upright - our leader. Could it get any better?
Too soon it was all over - the soldiers had paraded back out and the choir members were putting their all into ‘Hail Glorious St. Patrick’ - but we were transported through the rest of the mass on a sea of imaginative euphoria.
Simple things, but it ranks among other old memories, Fair Days, Corpus Christie processions, bonfires, all reminiscent of a less complicated, more innocent time, one that to kids nowadays might seem dull and boring but, to us, was there to look forward to, enjoy, - and converse about afterwards.
As we again approach our National Saint’s Day - let’s hope the sun shines, the crowds turn out - and the Ardaghey Pipes and drums are present to lift our spirits and remind us of Hugh and his fellow bandsmen as they followed a similar route around the Diamond so many years ago.

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Norman clears a path for the customers at SuperValu last Thursday morning

Bennett Construction notified by council of alleged unauthorised development at Drumlonagher

Construction firm strongly denies allegation

Christopher Bennett & Son (Construction) Limited has received a warning letter from Donegal County Council for alleged unauthorised development concerning the raising and lowering of ground levels on their site at Drumlonagher in Donegal Town. This would appear to have occurred during the construction of the Council’s Public Services Centre on the site, which is next to the Drumlonagher roundabout. A warning letter was sent to Bennett Construction on 17th February 2006, advising that it had come to the Council’s attention that unauthorised development may have occurred and that an Enforcement Notice could be issued. Also contained in the letter, which the Times gained access to on the Council’s web-site, is a warning to Bennett that ‘on conviction for an offence in relation to the unauthorised development, you may be liable on prosecution on indictment to a fine not exceeding €12.697 million (twelve million six hundred and ninety seven thousand euro) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both - and, on summary prosecution, to a fine not exceeding €1,904.61 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both’. The Westmeath based company were given four weeks from the date of this letter to make submissions or observations to the Council on the purported offence.
Also contained on the Council’s website is a letter dated 20th December 2005 from Keeney Construction Ltd to the Co Manager, Mr Michael McLoone, which has been forwarded to An Bord Pleanala (ABP) and within which is stated the following:
(i) In undertaking a cut-and-fill excercise associated with the construction of the Donegal Public Services Centre, Christopher Bennett and Son (Construction) Limited have dumped in the region of 90,000-150,000 cubic metres of fill material on part of the Drumlonagher site, raising the ground profile between 3.5 and 4 metres without the benefit of either planning permission from Donegal County Council or a waste license from the Environmental Protection Agency.
(ii) The lands on which the fill material were dumped lie within 200 metres of the River Eske which is a SAC containing the fresh water pearl mussel Margaritifera. This is a protected species both in Irish Law under the Wildlife Act, and under the European Union Habitats Directive. Dr Evelyn Moorkens, a consultant conchologist employed by us has advised that the infilling activities undertaken on the appeal site, in association with the construction of the Donegal Public Services Centre, are likely to have contributed to the decline in the reproduction of the Fresh Water Pearl Mussel in the river.
(iii) The unauthorised infilling operations have taken place in an area of the site recognised by the EIS as having high archaeological potential. Regrettably, and in all likelihood, any archaeological remains have now been destroyed.
Consultants representing Keeney Construction Ltd also claim that even if An Bord Pleanala was prepared to grant planning permission for the proposed retail development on the Drumlonagher site, they are prevented from doing so as a result of it being proposed on an unauthorised development site for which planning permission has neither granted by Donegal County Council - nor sought for by the applicants.

Margaret Gallagher writes: Given that the alleged unauthorised development occurred approximately three years ago during the construction of the Donegal Public Services Centre, it is somewhat of a mystery that the Council has waited until now to take action. Equally strange is the fact that Keeney has delayed this long to point out the transgression - to a time when the Drumlonagher site planning is under review by An Bord Pleanala. In the letter covering the warning notice to Bennett the council had this to say: ‘Having regard to the foregoing, the planning authority respectfully requests that its decision to grant permission in this case is upheld by members of An Bord Pleanala’.

Contacted by Donegal Times re the above, John White, Project Manager with Christopher Bennett & Son (Limited), sent the following email to the paper:
‘Bennett Construction Ltd wish to state that, in response to a query from The Donegal Times, that no unauthorised “cut-and-fill” of the ground levels at our site at Drumlonagher took place.
Any changes in the ground levels that took place during the construction of the New Civic Offices and Fire Station are comprehensively dealt with in planning files with the Planning Department for Donegal County Council (DCC). Any proper examination of these planning files (specifically 2001 and 2003), which are open to public inspection, would have revealed this.

The reason that DCC issued this letter asking for a reply from Bennett is that an allegation in writing was made to DCC and An Bord Pleanala by Keeney Construction Limited, alleging unauthorised landfill for which (Keeney Construction) says“retention permission has neither been granted by DCC nor sought for by the applicants” (Bennett Construction Ltd). This allegation was made to DCC on 20th December 2005 and to An Bord Pleanala on 13th January 2006. We strongly deny these allegations and would refer you to the planning files.
We have submitted a detailed response to ABP and will make a similar submission in response to DCC. It should be noted that DCC are obliged to send such a notice to anybody when they receive an allegation of unauthorised works such as this. We are more than confident that our detailed response and the planning files will deal adequately with this unfounded allegation.
It should be noted that this is the most recent allegation by Keeney Construction Ltd to halt development works on this site and was made to ABP on 13 January 2006 when they were due to make their decision on this planning. It had not been included in any of the previous objections made by Keeney Construction last year which we also had to prepare responses to.
Keeney Construction Ltd is the sole objector to the planning on the Atlantic Homecare site which, along with other retailers, will create about 150 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs for proposed development at Drumlonagher.
Yet again those who are suffering most from the delays caused by these objections are the people of Donegal Town and those looking for new jobs, your readers.
Yours sincerely,
John White Director Bennett Developments Ltd.’

Postscript: On rechecking the files at the Public Services Centre, Donegal Times found that Keeney does not appear to be the sole objector to the Atlantic Homecare site. There are three other submissions on the Drumlonagher development - Mr Niall Tee, on behalf of the Railway Society, Jackie Lowry from Kerry, and Tony Bamford, Dev Planning Partnership.


The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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