RED HAND OF ULSTER

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Frank Quinn’s Tyrone jacket with the Red Hand logo

I began the New Year sporting the Red Hand of Tyrone on a borrowed jacket, the property of Frank Quinn in Glenmalure. So I was fascinated to read the following history of the symbol of Ulster in An Irishman’s Diary written by Frank McNally, part of which is reproduced here:

“The question of which foot you use while digging has in Ireland long had a significance that goes beyond matters of horticulture. But during a visit to Belfast recently, I was struck by the contrasting neutrality, in political symbolism, of the hand.”

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Red Hand in the Ulster Rugby logo

“I’m thinking mainly of the Red Hand, that ubiquitous symbol of Ulster. Unlike most emblems, it straddles the political and sectarian divide.  And on both sides, it’s usually the right hand (dexter) that’s depicted, although there are quite a few left hands scattered around Belfast on coats of arms and other insignia, with apparently equal indifference.

This is all the more surprising given that there are two competing explanations for the symbol’s origins. One is religious, referring to the hand of God (His right, invariably), a meaning mentioned in Milton’s Paradise Lost and a Nick Cave song, Red Right Hand, among other places.

The alternative is the prehistorical myth of the Iberian invaders, promised Ulster as the prize in a boat race. The first to touch it would win, so within sight of the finish, the most committed of the trio chopped his hand off and threw it ashore, a result that withstood the subsequent stewards’ inquiry.

By the law of averages (and most versions of the story), however, it was the invader’s right hand that did the chopping, and therefore his left that claimed the reward. Maybe that explains some of the left-hand versions in Belfast.  But then again, as far as I can see, loyalist murals, just like GAA insignia, tend to go with with the right.

Not that the Red Hand is entirely the property of Ulster. It used to symbolise Ireland in general. And again, this could be ambidextrous. You see lefty versions on, for example, old cap badges of the Irish Citizen Army. But I suppose there is a certain logic in that.

The foot question has its contradictions too. In the South, it is Protestants who are (or were) said to the dig with the left. In the North, the same claim was made of Catholics.  The point in both cases was that they were the minority.  Whichever foot they dug with it, it was the “wrong” one.

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Red Hand in Mid Ulster Council logo

One the other other hand (no pun intended), that great student of Ireland’s idiosyncrasies, (QUB Professor) E. Estyn Evans, once went into the subject in meticulous detail and found a depth of meaning in it that few who used the phrase could have suspected.

In his 1957 book, Irish Folk Ways, he wrote that most diggers in Ireland used the right foot – a habit reinforced by the traditional one-sided Irish spade, or “loy”, which unlike the English version, didn’t offer a choice.

But he added that, “in eastern Ireland, and particularly the Protestant districts of the north-east, the left foot is normally the digging-foot […] though the old Irish stocks continue to dig with the right”. In general, he marvelled at the “astonishing variety” of spades here, as witnessed by a Tyrone factory that specialised in the product. Its “spade gauge book”, he reported, had 230 different patterns.

The Tyrone factory had recently closed, he noted.  And I suspect that the complexity of Irish spade technology had peaked by then. Even so, anyone who still thinks that “calling a spade a spade” is synonymous with verbal simplicity should read Irish Folk Ways.  For me, at least, it sheds new light on Seamus Heaney’s famous decision, circa 1966, to dig with a pen.”

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Red Hand (dexter version)

The left hand version (sinister) of the symbol has been used by the Irish National Foresters, the Irish Citizen Army and the Federated Workers Union of Ireland, subsequently SIPTU.

THE LATE PJ MARA

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RTE NEWS Picture at end of Report on Death of PJ Mara

Sorry to hear of the death in Dublin of the former government press secretary PJ Mara. My deep sympathy is extended to his family and relatives. I had heard over the New Year that he had been in hospital for some time and was not well.

The long-serving Fianna Fáil political advisor died aged 73. He was known for his close political relationship with the late Charlie Haughey. He returned to serve as the party’s director of elections up till the 2000s.

A well-known figure in Irish politics for decades, he also served briefly in the Seanad on two occasions between 1981 and 1982. Mr Mara was press secretary to Fianna Fáil in opposition from 1982 to 1987 and fulfilled the same role in government from 1987-1992.

FFIn a statement the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said it was with great sadness that he learned this morning of the passing of PJ Mara. He went on: “on behalf of the Fianna Fáil party I wish to extend our condolences to his family. In a series of general elections as well as the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement PJ proved himself to be the most effective campaign director in Irish political history.  He brought immense humour, judgement and commitment to the role.”

“As Government Press Secretary for five years he brought a new energy and professionalism to the role which was recognised throughout Europe during the 1990 Presidency of the European Council. Whether it was international statesmen or a local party stalwart PJ was always available to encourage and support. PJ was a true original who it was an honour and a pleasure to know and to work with. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”

PJ Mara returned to steer successful election campaigns during Bertie Ahern’s term in charge from 1997 to 2008. His high-profile role as government advisor inspired sketches by Dermot Morgan on the radio comedy Scrap Saturday in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was also portrayed (by Tom Vaughan Lawlor) in the RTÉ drama last year on Charlie Haughey.

A native of Drumcondra in Dublin, the Fianna Fáil stalwart had been living in Ballsbridge in recent years. His son John is involved in the property business and the loss will be felt in Kinvara, County Galway where he will be laid to rest on Sunday afternoon, following Mass at 4pm tomorrow (Saturday 16th January) at St Mary’s, Haddington Road, Dublin.

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PJ MARA (Digicel picture)

As part of his private business career, he served as non-executive director of the mobile phone and communications company Digicel and director of subsidiary Digicel PNG. Indeed the last time I met him was at Dublin airport a number of years ago when he was flying away somewhere on company business.

He was also media relations adviser to Guinness Peat Aviation, the aircraft-leasing company. Mr Mara was a board member of UNICEF Ireland and of the NUI Galway Foundation, and served on the board of the Special Olympics World Games, which was held in Ireland in 2003.

In a statement, Special Olympics Ireland said PJ Mara used his “considerable experience and insight of media relations” to allow Ireland’s hosting of the summer games in 2003 to be the success that it was.

CAITRIONA BALFE

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Caitriona Balfe at the Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Moet & Chandon)

RED CARPET GLAMOUR IN HOLLYWOOD FOR CAITRIONA BALFE

Northern Standard Thursday 14th January 2016 p.1/2

NB that’s Hollywood USA, by the way, not Holywood in Tydavnet parish near Scotstown!

It looks like a busy year ahead for screen actress Caitriona Balfe from Tydavnet. On Sunday night in Beverly Hills, California, she attended the 73rd annual Golden Globes Awards. She had been one of five nominations for best actress in a TV series/drama for her role as Claire Beauchamp in Outlander. The winner was Taraji P. Henson for her role in Empire. Arriving on the red carpet, Caitriona wore a romantic gothic black gown with lace ruffle sleeves by Alexander McQueen, accessorised with Fred Leighton jewellery, a handbag by Christian Louboutin and Roger Vivier shoes.

Earlier this month the Starz series Outlander won a People’s Choice Award as favourite Cable TV Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show, with Caitriona receiving an award for Favourite Actress Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Outlander has also received five nominations in the Women’s Image Network Awards, due to be presented next month. Caitriona Balfe has received a nomination in the Actress Drama Series category. A second season of Outlander will start in April.

Prior to this series, Balfe appeared in films such as Super 8, Now You See Me and Escape Plan. She had leading roles in The Beauty Inside, Crush, and H+: The Digital Series.

Meanwhile the trailer has been released for the film Money Monster, Caitriona’s big screen debut. The former model joins a star-studded Hollywood cast of Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Dominic West in the film, which is due to be released in May. Balfe plays the head of PR for a company whose stock market fortunes crashed in the economic downturn. Her fortune, however, seems to be heading in the opposite direction and everyone in Monaghan will wish her well for 2016.

ULSTER RUGBY WOES

ULSTERLOGOThe casualty list is long. After the exertions of the European Cup match in France against Oyonnax which produced a great win, it’s not surprising that there are so many injuries. No further news yet on Tommy Bowe who was a spectator at the annual Christmas Day swim at Emy Lake near his home in Emyvale, Co. Monaghan. So here’s the long list and I hope it’s not too depressing for Ulster rugby fans…..

An injury update on Cave, Payne, Olding, Williams, Arnold, Herbst, Ludik, Bowe, Tuohy and Henderson…

Ireland internationals Darren Cave (shoulder) and Jared Payne (foot) have returned to training following their injuries and are in contention to play against Saracens on Saturday. Nick Williams was concussed during Sunday’s win over Oyonnax and will follow the return to play protocols. He will be unavailable for selection this weekend against Saracens. Sammy Arnold strained his hamstring in the first half of the Oyonnax match and will be sidelined for approximately three weeks. Louis Ludik is having treatment for an adductor strain he suffered in the same match and he is likely to be rested this week.

Wiehahn Herbst has recovered from a calf injury and he is likely to feature against Saracens this weekend. Stuart Olding is recovering well from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury suffered against Cardiff last March. He is in full training and is likely to return to competitive action in the coming weeks.

Tommy Bowe (knee), Iain Henderson (hamstring) and Dan Tuohy (ankle) are recovering well from their respective injuries. A return to play date has yet to be determined for the trio.

 

ENTERPRISE TRAIN PROBLEMS

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Enterprise Train at Belfast Central Station http://www.seat61.com

The refurbished Enterprise train was taken off the Belfast to Dublin service owing to safety concerns about its doors. The doors are reported to have opened on two occasions when the cross-border train was still moving.

The first of the newly-refurbished Enterprise fleet went into service on the Belfast to Dublin line in November. The £12.2m upgrade programme included an extensive safety approval process but issues around the doors saw the first train removed from service.

Update: On Wednesday (13th January) Translink said a detailed technical investigation and review of the door mechanisms by its engineering team, specialist door contractors and the train door manufacturer had been carried out and the train was now back in service.

Ian Campbell, General Manager, Engineering with Translink explained: “When these incidents occurred, all the appropriate safety and operational procedures were carried out. We immediately addressed the issue, removed the train from service and reported the event to the relevant safety authorities.  “We would strongly reassure our passengers and the wider public that there was no imminent danger for our customers travelling on board as a result of these two unrelated door faults.”

In light of the door faults, the Railway Safety Commission had banned the trains from operating in the Republic. Translink said it had satisfied the Irish rail authority’s concerns and the upgraded train would be returned into service.

“We will continue to collaborate with the Railway Safety Commission as we work to bring this significant Enterprise train refurbishment programme to fruition which will ultimately provide a much enhanced quality of service to passengers travelling on this important cross border route,” they concluded. The RSC said it had finished a review of evidence submitted by NI Railways and was satisfied that the circumstances which gave rise to the prohibition notice had been remedied.

A news release in September 2015 from the Special EU Programmes Body said the first newly refurbished Enterprise train had entered the ‘testing and commissioning phase’ of Translink NI Railways’ train upgrade programme which has received £12.2 million funding from the EU’s INTERREG IVA Programme. The major service overhaul will improve the cross-border rail experience for customers travelling between Belfast and Dublin as well as ensure the long-term reliability of the service for the next 10 years.

The refurbishment programme has been financed through the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) with support from the Department of Regional Development and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) in Ireland.

Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive, said: “The project continues to progress well as we enter this important ‘testing and commissioning’ phase in which this first fully refurbished train will be checked to ensure it complies with all necessary safety regulations and technical specifications. This will include ‘on-track’ testing of important new features such as passenger information systems, seat reservation systems and CCTV, as well as ensuring the reliability of all the train’s management systems.”

“Following successful completion of this important project phase and all necessary safety approvals, the first train can then be introduced into passenger service so that our customers can enjoy an all-new Enterprise journey experience with an emphasis on comfort, service and value. We would like to thank the European Union, Department for Regional Development and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in Ireland for essential funding to deliver this project.”

“We would also like to thank our customers for their continued patience and support as we work hard to complete this major rail project. We look forward to welcoming them on board their new Enterprise service and delivering passenger growth on this important route,” said Chris.

Paul Boylan, Programme Manager at the SEUPB which manages the EU’s INTERREG IVA Programme, said: “Developing cross-border transport infrastructure is a key facet in the INTERREG IVA Programme, which aims to enhance co-operation for a more sustainable cross-border region. The improvements being implemented by the Translink NI Railways train upgrade programme will bring a wide range of social and economic benefits to people living and working along the Belfast – Dublin rail corridor and we look forward to the programme’s successful completion.”

On November 17th the first refurbished Enterprise set made the journey between Belfast Central station and Dublin Connolly, passing through Newry.

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NI Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen MLA and Chris Conway, Group Chief Executive for Translink chat with customer Edna Murray from Belfast as the newly refurbished Enterprise train left Belfast for Dublin in November

Transport Minister, Michelle McIlveen said: “The Northern Ireland Executive has invested significantly in railways and trains over the last decade with 43 new trains at a cost of around £200million in total. This has resulted in a tremendous growth in passenger numbers with a doubling of rail passengers in the last decade. Last year alone nearly 13.5million rail journeys were made in Northern Ireland.”

“I am confident that this major improvement in the Enterprise trains will encourage even more growth in rail passengers along this key strategic rail link.”

Welcoming the launch, (then) Finance Minister Arlene Foster said: “The Enterprise service between Belfast and Dublin provides an important infrastructure link for passengers travelling between the two cities. This delivery of this project, supported under the EU’s INTERREG IVA programme, will deliver social and economic benefits for citizens in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which will in turn contribute to economic growth and prosperity.”

Speaking at Belfast Central Station ahead of the train’s departure to Dublin Connolly Station, Translink Group Chief Executive Chris Conway said: “This is great news for our customers. The service looks and feels like a modern new train with the emphasis on comfort, service and value.”

“Customers will first notice the train’s striking modern new look with a stylish purple, red and grey livery. Stepping on board, the transformation is incredible with vibrant, eye-catching new colour schemes, attractive seating with power sockets, plush carpets, new tables and lighting. Once all trains are completed we will also have our new electronic seat reservation displays operating.”

FIRST MINISTER ARLENE FOSTER

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Arlene Foster MLA with her predecessor as First Minister and DUP Leader Peter Robinson MLA at the Balmoral Show in May 2015  Photo: COPYRIGHT Michael Fisher

It was a chance encounter in May last year at the 2015 Balmoral Show at the Maze when I passed the DUP stand. I came across the then party leader and First Minister, Peter Robinson MLA and then Minister for Finance and Personnel Arlene Foster MLA, who had taken over the portfolio a few days earlier at the start of that week. I had not seen either for a while and both readily agreed to have their photograph taken, which I used in an article I wrote for the Northern Standard. The way Peter put his arm around Arlene’s shoulder was perhaps an indication that later in the year she would become his preference for a successor when he announced he was standing down. Both were in very good mood at the time and I was fortunate to get a picture of them in an informal setting, rather than an office or the Assembly chamber.

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NI First Minister Peter Robinson MLA with Michael Fisher at Balmoral Show in May 2015

Arlene Foster then turned the tables and very kindly offered to take a photo of myself with the then First Minister, proving her media skills! During our brief encounter, I did not ask Mr Robinson whether he was thinking about Arlene as a successor at that stage. But ten days later he was admitted to hospital with a suspected heart attack and was fitted with a heart stent. I assure you the timing was coincidental!

Arlene Foster grew up in Roslea, County Fermanagh, just across the border from Scotstown in County Monaghan. Her father, a small farmer, was a full-time RUC member and was injured in an IRA gun attack at their home in 1979. As a teenager in 1988, she survived an IRA bomb in Lisnaskea, which exploded under her school bus while it was being driven by a part-time UDR soldier.

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Arlene Foster MLA then Minister for Enterprise with DUP MEP Diane Dodds in Clogher       Photo: Copyright Michael 

A qualified solicitor and former member of the Ulster Unionist Party, Arlene Foster has always been very courteous in dealing with media requests for interviews. I wish her well in her new post, in which she will share responsibilty for government in Northern Ireland with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness. She has written an article for today’s Belfast Telegraph in which she outlines some of her priorities. She says she wants to lead the North in the right direction and ensure that children grow up in a better Northern Ireland than she did.

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DUBLIN PROTEST FOR BODNARIU FAMILY

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Several hundred people, mostly Romanians, held a protest outside the Norwegian Embassy at Molesworth Street in Dublin at lunchttime on Friday. Gardaí had blocked off the street to allow the demonstration, which passed off without incident.

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The banners, posters and placards called on Norway to return ‘the children’ to the Bodnariu family. Other slogans called on Norway to “stop child kidnapping”.

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So I later checked out the background to the case. I found this article by Christian Ionescu (Bodnariu), a brother of Marius whose five children had been taken from him and his wife by the authorities in Norway last November.

Bodnariu Marian Constantin (Marius), a Romanian citizen, his wife Ruth Johanne Bodnariu, a Norwegian citizen, and their 5 children (Eliana, Naomi Matthew, John and baby Ezekiel who is only three months old) with joint citizenship in Romania and Norway.  Marius and Ruth, former members of Philadelphia Pentecostal Church in Bucharest, married in Romania, moved to / settled in Norway approximately 10 years ago to start, and raise, a family in Ruth’s hometown. This past Monday, November 16th (2015), Child Welfare Services (Barnevernet) “kidnapped” the two oldest children (Eliana and Naomi) from school without the knowledge of their parents.  Barnevarnet, accompanied by police, then came to the Bodnariu home and forcibly took custody of the two older boys (Matthew and John); leaving a devastated Ruth at home with only three month old Ezekiel while Marius was at work. Marius promptly came home from work to understand what was taking place and, together with Ruth, visited the police station and Barnevernet to resolve the situation.  Because Ruth was crying and devastated by the events, Barnevernet and four policemen showed up at their family home on Tuesday, November 17, without any court order or documentation, and also took 3 month old Ezekiel on the stated grounds that the mother posed a danger to her child.

On Wednesday, November 18, Barneverent notified Ruth that her kids were separated into two families and that the children already started integrating into their new lifestyle. The Barnevernet also told Ruth that “The kids don’t even miss you, what kind of parents are you?”  On the other hand, the children are told that their parents abandoned them and that they do not care! These actions of the Barneverent terrifies any normal parent who loves their children!

What happens in Norway via the Barneverent, under the guise of “child welfare,” is outrageous and unfathomable!  Children are considered property of the state; a premise utilized by the Barnevernet to abduct children and place them in foster family care for any unchecked/unregulated/unaudited reason as upheld by the Barnevernet. A quick search on the internet will yield results highlighting hundreds of cases of abuse and testimonies from affected families. The Barnevernet has a history of prevalently focusing their efforts on immigrant families or on families in which one of the parents is of a different nationality (as in my brother’s case, Romanian).

Documentation has evidenced that the Barnevernet has a long history of acting on unimaginable grounds including: the father putting the child to do certain chores in the home, the baby sleeping in the same bed as the parent or the child weighing one kilogram lighter than the national average for his/her age group. Norwegian children are taught in school to notify their teachers if a parent asks them to do their homework, or do something that a child in their childishness finds unappealing, so that teachers help the children get rid of such parents. Children are interrogated in great detail at school about their home life with what can be interpreted as malicious intent for identifying grounds on which the Barneverent can “interpret” seemingly fickle and unsubstantiated grievances. Furthermore, the Barnevernet is NOT objective in its actions and proceedings.  Quite to the contrary, the Barneverent incentivizes and rewards its employees for “generating” leads that can create to case work for the organization.

I testify, and vehemently vouch, for Marius and Ruth having given birth to and raised a “normal” family with Christian values.  These parents love their children and have taken every imaginable step in raising their children with loving caring in all aspects of their well-being.  The tearing apart of their family by the Barnevernet is a living nightmare for Marius and Ruth.  Their hope is founded, and rests, in God; He can change any situation and He is ALWAYS in control!”

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The Dublin protest was one of a number of demonstrations by Romanians that were held at Norwegian embassies and consulates in various parts of the world, including London, where 1300 people took part.

BT YOUNG SCIENTISTS

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BT Young Scientist Winners 2016 with Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan TD

The winners of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2016 are Maria Louise Fufezan and Diana Bura from Loreto secondary school Balbriggan, county Dublin. Their project was on enzymes and animal feed. It was about whether industrial additives to animal feed are effective at eradicating roundworm. The winners were congratulated by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan T.D.

NI Education Minister John O'Dowd MLA at the exhibition at the RDS

NI Education Minister John O’Dowd MLA at the exhibition at the RDS

 The Stormont Education Minister John O’Dowd MLA also visited the exhibition at the RDS in Dublin to see some of the projects entered by schools from Northern Ireland.

Project on lead in water by two students from Colaiste Oiriall Monaghan

Project on lead in water by two students from Colaiste Oiriall Monaghan

There were five entries from three secondary schools in County Monaghan. Two were from Patrician High School Carrickmacross and two from St Louis secondary school Monaghan. The third featured in the photo was from Colaiste Oiriall Monaghan. 2048 projects and 396 schools entered this year, the 52nd.

 

 

2015 REVIEW

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How I reported the closure of the Bose factory in January in The Northern Standard Photo: © Michael Fisher

Northern Standard  Thursday 7th January 2016

Michael Fisher looks back on some of the main stories of 2015:

BOSE CLOSURE

It was the first major story I wrote for the Northern Standard when I began covering the Carrickmacross area on a temporary basis a year ago. The news came out of the blue, creating shockwaves in Carrick that are still being felt.

In a statement of 290 words issued by a public relations company in Dublin, Bose Ltd. announced it was closing its County Monaghan facility with the loss of 140 jobs. It was probably just a coincidence that the news was released on a Thursday afternoon, the day on which this weekly newspaper is published. So the coverage had to wait until the following week. But this was a decision that had been taken some time beforehand at the company’s headquarters in the United States, where a plant in South Carolina was also being shut down.

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Workers at the BOSE factory in Carrickmacross react to news of the plant’s closure Photo:  Michael Fisher

What offended the workers most was the way the news was relayed to them. They were called into the canteen at 4pm that black Thursday (22nd January 2015) and by video link were addressed by the company President. They thought it was going to be part of the usual quarterly update on company performance. Instead they were being told they would be made redundant in April.

After lobbying by union representatives and local politicians, the date for the shutdown was postponed until the end of May, in the hope that some workers might be able to find alternative employment. Some like Pat McNally had been with the company since it was established by Dr Amar Bose in July 1978. The plant provided final assembly for select home cinema systems and Wave radios for the European market, and some remanufacturing for the region.

Councillors pressed the IDA to find an alternative employer but so far no replacement has been found, although some clients have viewed the premises. In the aftermath of the closure it was discovered that the factory premises was now owned by a private group, following new arrangements regarding IDA leases.

The last day at Bose (May 29th) was sad for all concerned. The workers came in small groups to collect their redundancy payments. The car park gates were locked and a few days later, the plant and machinery inside the building were put up for auction, bringing to an end a 37-year history of production at the site.

As they left the plant, the workers again pointed out that this had been a profitable operation for Bose, and their Irish base in Europe had never been affected by industrial disputes. They said they had always shown their loyalty to the company and had generally been treated well by their employer, until the founder of the company Dr Amar Bose had died two years ago.

In the words of the Carrickmacross-based Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy, the closure of the plant was devastating for the local economy and community who felt they had been let down by the government. It was the end of an era and a huge blow forthe whole of South Monaghan and beyond.

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Minister for Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys T.D. congratulates Frances Treanor on her winning self-portrait Photo: Michael Fisher

TEXACO ART WINNER

In April an art student from County Monaghan won the overall prize in the Texaco Children’s Art competition. A great achievement by my neighbour, Frances Treanor from Drumdart, Tydavnet. The 18 year-old was rewarded with a trip to Tokyo to represent Ireland in an international art exhibition, along with a cheque for €1500. Her self-portrait drawing done in black ballpoint pen was part of the 16th International High School Arts Festival along with some other Texaco award winners. Back at her home in Tydavnet she told me about her experiences in Japan, a country she said she would return to if she got a chance.

Her five days there introduced her to Japanese food such as tempura (fish and rice) for which chopsticks were used. She was served dishes of sushi and sukiakki and also got time to do some sightseeing. This included areas such as Harajuku, the Meiji shrine and Takeshita-dori street. Frances also visited a rural area a few hours outside Tokyo and saw a red panda being fed in the zoo. She noticed that the streets were very clean, as well as being busy and hectic. Everyone was carrying an umbrella, Frances told me, and there were special holders at the entrance to the museum where visitors could leave them.

The winning self portrait was completed by her in two weeks and was described by the chair of the judging panel, Professor Declan McGonagle, as having been executed “with the skill and delicacy of a master”. The talented Frances had featured among the prizewinners in 2012 when she won second place in her age category for her work “Lighting Up the Imagination”. She is one of seven children and is studying art at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, alongside her twin sister Maeve.

Frances was keen to thank her former art teachers at St Louis Secondary School in Monaghan, Teresa Mahony and Stephen Penders, who she said had always encouraged and developed her talent.

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Electricity pylons beside SONI/NIE sub-station in Co. Antrim  Photo: Michael Fisher  

EIRGRID PLANS FOR INTERCONNECTOR

EirGrid has begun a fresh attempt to get permission for a second North/South electricity interconnector. It would involve the erection of over 400 pylons carrying a 400 kV high voltage cable across five counties from Meath to Tyrone, including Monaghan. There has been strong opposition to the plan, with over 900 submissions to An Bord Pleanála since the new planning application was submitted in June. The Board is expected to make a decision later this year on whether to hold another public enquiry into the plan. More details of the EirGrid response to the submissions and objections can be found on p.14 and the Northern Standard will continue to report on this controversial issue in the coming months.