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August 8th 2007

No ogres here!

I remember when I was about five or six years old, a rumour swept the area that there was ‘a communist’ in town. Seemingly a girl who had been away working in London had met this creature and taken him home to meet her parents. It was news of huge import throughout the community. “Imagine a communist’ my aunt said to my mother “and her such a nice, good looking, well-brought-up girl.”
To be truthful, I didn’t know what a communist was and decided that the only way to find out was to ask my friend and long-time mentor, George Robinson, who ran the chemist shop beneath the hotel.
“It’s a person who comes from behind the iron-curtain” George informed me.
Iron curtain! This was getting even more strange - and certainly too much for a small caddy to take in.
It had to be looked into! A meeting was called of similarly aged young rascals and it was decided that the mysterious stranger must be investigated further. So it was that an unruly, unkempt group of ruffians moved into the street in question and took up position on a wall opposite the house where this rare species was reportedly staying. None of us knew how we would recognise a communist - but were certain that anyone who lived behind an iron-curtain would be different and easily identifiable.
When I went home that evening, my mother, as was her wont, asked me where I’d been, “down the street trying to see the Communist” I replied.
She laughed heartily and then sat me down to explain that people from behind the ‘iron curtain’ looked just the same as the rest of us, had the same troubles and joys - and that the curtain wasn’t a real tangible curtain at all. All a big disappointment for a wee lad who, from all the whispering and gossip going around, expected to see some sort of ogre appear from the house.
Since those days in the early 50’s, this town has come a long way. Deprivation and poverty have, to a large extent, been eliminated. Religious divisions have disappeared and mostly everyone has an equal opportunity to get on in life. A lot of this is possible because education is now open to everyone - not just those with the money to afford it. Also clubs and societies have integrated everyone, regardless of creed or class.
But, since the millennium, an iron curtain of sorts has descended into our midst. John Hamilton drew attention to it in a recent letter to this paper when he alluded to towns, communities, even families being divided by a series of decisions made over the past years. While John’s letter concerned the mart and contentious issues associated with it, equally it could describe the divisions that recent planning decisions have created in town.
This is a relatively small community. While it has grown and prospered over the years, there is still a lot of development to take place, both in infrastructure and building.
Our people are our strength - disagreement and debate has its place - but, when all is said and done, we must get on with one another. We might have different opinions - but let us express them in the proper forum in a decorous and civilized manner. And when we have, let us go out, socialize, and enjoy each other’s company. We do not want a curtain of any kind in Donegal - just as in the case of the man from behind the Iron Curtain - there are no ogres here!

Kathleen Phelan, Tullaghan, who won the ‘Best Dressed Lady’ award at Ballintra Races on Monday is congratulated by judges Yvonne Egan of Vanilla and Karla Gallagher whose company also sponsored the event. Pic: Margaret Gallagher

Crowds brave the elements to enjoy great day’s racing in Ballintra

It’s that time of the year again when ladies don their biggest hats, men stuff their pockets with notes, and all head to Murvagh for the Ballintra races. Bank holiday Monday was the day - and crowds of punters flocked to the annual meeting. Despite early morning thunderstorms, the sun broke through in the afternoon, and stewards reported numbers up on last year.
Traffic started to build up from early noon, but with the hard-working stewards, committee, civil defense and Gardai, everything kept moving well. The first race was off at 2.30pm, a one mile event, sponsored by Laghey Waste. A big field went to post with the winner Mr Chips romping home evens favourite.
The Des Scahill of the meeting, Collie O’Donnell, was the commentator and added much excitement and atmosphere as he called the winners home. ‘North Pride’, the stylish winner of the fifth race, enjoyed the soft ground and, with Stephen Fox in the saddle, is heading for Kerry next week - connections say it is one to watch!
The 18 bookmakers were extra busy, but with a lot of favourites passing the post first, their operators claimed they made no money. Tommy McBride of McBride Bookmakers, who has being attending Ballintra for the past 50 years, said it is one of the best pony tracks in Ireland and has become a mini-Galway, even though he complained of getting badly stung, having given high odds on the winner of the fourth race Barick Boy - 12/1 while others were offering only 8/1.
There was a real carnival atmosphere with something for all the family - inflatable fun, face painting, penalty shoot-out, spin the dice and lots more - with ice-cream vans and burger vendors for those feeling peckish.
A featured event of the meeting is the ‘Best Dressed Lady’ award which was sponsored by Vanilla Boutique, Donegal Town, and first past the post this year was the beautifully dressed Kathleen Phelan from Tullaghan who wore a stunning John Rocha cream dress, draped with a two-tone wrap, contrasting black hat, black gloves and dark sandals and finishing it all off was a neck-piece by Pilgrim. Kathleen also carried a matching umbrella which luckily had not to be used much during the day. The stylish lady was presented with a voucher from Vanilla proprietor Yvonne Egan for €250 and a bouquet of flowers.
It was all plain sailing for Dougie Thompson this year at the weigh-in bridge as there were no stewards enquires - the only problem reported by some of the horse owners was a lack of jockeys.
The winning jockey prize went to 12 year old Stephen Fox who rode the winners of the second and fifth race. Inver trainer and owner Ciaran Mullin had a horse in the third race which was placed second and indeed the other Inver trainer, who made the headlines during the week in Galway, dropped into the races. Ray McGlinchey told me he was recovering after a big session in the Milltown Bar the night before at which horse owner Paul Crossan had an open bar for all the punters. Ray told me the win was a great boost for his yard. “I had trainer Dermot Weld come over to congratulate me. Incline is a good horse and has won €150,000 for its owner since I purchased him”. Ray went on to say he has three runners at the Sligo Races this Wednesday - Esparato and Incawood and possibly Incline - so keep a watch out.
A great festival - a lot of the punters leaving with empty pockets, but the fun and frolics of the day compensated for this.


No CCTV funding for Donegal Town

The news that there will be no government funding for closed circuit TV for Donegal Town came just days after gardai had to draw batons to control a brawl on the Diamond. On Tuesday last, Minister Brian Lenihan approved monies of €2.75 million for nationwide community based CCTV - and Manorhamilton was the only town in the northwest to be granted funding.
But it seems the fault for not obtaining the necessary dosh might not lie entirely with the granting agency. Donegal Community Chamber, who submitted the application, were turned down on the grounds of a shortage of capital funding - and the date on which the application was submitted.
If this means the application was submitted late - surely the Chamber has some questions to answer. We have been talking about installing CCTV for years and, if the reason for not getting it is because a form was not returned in time, it surely raises questions for the Chamber Executive to answer. It is one thing to be turned down as undeserving - it is another to lose out because an application was not submitted in time.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

Tel: +353-74-9722860 Fax: +353-74-9722937


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