An evening of celebration and acknowledgement of the contribution made by the St Louis Sisters to the lives and fabric of so many people in Carrickmacross and south Monaghan was held last Thursday evening at the Nuremore Hotel. Over five hundred people gathered to give their personal thanks to the nuns and to watch a new television documentary telling their story made by the videographer Pat Byrne. The evening was introduced by his friend and companion from schooldays, Brian Mohan, a retired Garda officer. 

Mr Mohan told the audience the nuns of St Louis and their convent on the hill at Castle Street had been part and parcel of Carrickmacross over the last 130 years. In that time they had made a huge contribution, not only to education, but also to those in need. He said it was a matter of great sadness that the convent had closed its doors for the last time. “Fortunately Pat Byrne has completed a video documentary on the history, joys and sorrows of the convent in Carrickmacross and the personal stories of some of the sisters who resided there,” he said.

He continued: “I have known Pat for most of my life and as young teenagers we had a particular interest. In the convent, because girls lived there. Despite our best endeavours, we were unable to breach the nuns’ security! But we always kept out interest in the convent alive.”

“Pat has a wonderful knowledge of the origins of the convent building and those that lived within. He has painstakingly and respectfully put together a video documentary in which it is evident that there is a passion and emotion in its making. It is certainly something very special, which I’m sure will stir many memories for the viewers.” 

DVD set of two video documentaries by Pat Byrne


“We will get only a flavour of the video tonight. What you will see is only an edited version. The entire video is two hours long and I have no doubt that it is so interesting and yes, asks hard questions that anyone watching it will feel it was only a very short time.”

“The convent and its members have been a beacon of inclusiveness and a shining example of tolerance and respect. They have lived together down through the years with their neighbouring Church of Ireland community, and nurtured long and loving relationships.” He then introduced Minister Heather Humphreys.


Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD said it was an important celebration and commemoration for Carrickmacross. She commended “the amazing women of the St Louis Sisters,” and gave a special welcome to those who had travelled from overseas, including as far as South Africa, to be with them. “Your commitment to service, charity and education is a sign of hope in our modern world,” she said.

She continued: “You are an inspiration to us all, and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ for your outstanding contribution to this town, county and region over 130 years. Our Lady’s Mount Convent, Carrickmacross, was your home from September 1888 to October 2018. We were all very sad to see you leave your historic home, but your legacy in Carrickmacross will live on for generations. 

Not only have you made a hugely positive impact in the education of young women, you also revived and sustained Carrickmacross Lace, a world-famous local tradition and industry. For all of these reasons and more, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan – and indeed Ireland – owe you a debt of gratitude. 

As we know, the Sisters of St Louis started out in 1888 by opening a small primary school, but gradually introduced a secondary curriculum to older pupils and, in 1899, a boarding school was built. 

Today, the school is a vibrant Catholic Voluntary Secondary School for girls, and I know that the Board of Management and hardworking staff, under the leadership of the Principal, Karen Patton, inherited the great tradition of ‘high standards in a caring environment’ from the Sisters.

The school has a long history of academic and sporting successes, which lives on to this day. Only this year, for example, the Under 19 basketball team won the All Ireland Cup and League competitions. 

The Convent’s many famous past pupils are a testament to the high standard of education provided by the Sisters over the years. They include Mary Daly, Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD; Monica Barnes, former Fine Gael TD; Natalie B. Coleman, the famous fashion designer; Catherine Martin TD; and of course, Kate Beagan, a well-known local artist, to name just a few.

Very importantly, the Convent also has links with schools in Liberia and Cambodia, running annual fundraisers and projects to support students in less fortunate countries. Thank you, Sisters, for instilling a tradition of social responsibility and charity in our young people here in Carrickmacross.

I’ve always been a big fan of Carrickmacross Lace. It is renowned all over the world and of course it was Carrickmacross Lace that was famously used on the wedding dresses of Princess Diana and indeed Kate Middleton.

For my own part, in December 2016, I was delighted to announce an investment of €150,000 towards the redevelopment of the Market House as the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery. However, none of this would have been possible without the dedication and commitment of the St Louis Sisters. 

The area around Carrickmacross was very badly affected by the Famine. Lace-making made a great contribution to the survival of many families, but by the end of the nineteenth century, it was under threat of dying out as patronage ended and commercial demand declined.

In their fight against poverty in this town, the Sisters founded their own Lace School to revive the craft. The School kept the technique alive throughout the 20th century, rebuilding its high reputation and quality, which is known and respected all over the world.

In 1984, they assisted in the formation of the Carrickmacross Lace Co-operative, which maintains the tradition to this day. All that said, I don’t think they ever expected that their efforts would mean international media attention through Donald and Melania Trump!

But in all seriousness, without the Sisters, we most likely would have lost what is now one of Ireland’s greatest cultural assets, not to mention the economic lifeline it brought to the town throughout the years.

I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Pat Byrne, who has not only organised this event, but also made two documentaries to commemorate the history of the St. Louis Sisters, and Carrickmacross Lace. I know that Pat has put a huge amount of personal time and commitment into ensuring that this important part of County Monaghan’s rich heritage is protected and recorded. Thanks to Pat’s work, we have a record of their stories for present and future generations. 

In closing, I would like to once again say ‘thank you’ to the St. Louis Sisters for the enormous contribution they have made to the town Your legacy will forever be woven into the story of Carrickmacross, County Monaghan and this wider region. We are deeply grateful everything you have done and continue to do.” 

Brian Mohan then called on Pat Byrne, a school pal from national school days, to introduce his video documentary on the St Louis Sisters. It was the first of two DVDs he has recently produced, the other dealing with the history of Carrickmacross Lace.

Pat Byrne thanked Minister Humphreys for her support. He pointed out that she had been instrumental in getting the government to accept a piece of legislation drafted by local solicitor Tony Donagher and Professor John Wylie, a leading land law academic, as a result of his documentary on ground rent, “What’s next for Carrickmacross?”, presented by this reporter. “That bill was entered in the Seanad by Senator Robbie Gallagher, accepted by Minister Charlie Flanagan and received cross part support. The bill is now due to be entered into the Dail for its final stages. Hopefully we will have cause to celebrate this in the near future,” he said. He went on to thank Senator Robbie Gallagher for introducing the bill in the Seanad and Minister Humphreys for her continued support. 


Pat Byrne explained: “When I started out on this project a few years ago, what I wanted to do was to document the Sisters going about their daily lives pictorially, such as a picture essay, with the view of having a photographic exhibition. But as time went by, I started to create video documentaries and to date with these two documentaries, it brings my total to six.” 

“I approached Sister Marie Byrne with the idea of doing a video documentary; she agreed and asked if I would get a storyboard together on what I wanted and she would put it to the other Sisters.
All was agreed by the Sisters but we did not have a starting date. A short time later I received a phone call from Sister Marie saying that if I was going to do something I should “start as soon as possible because the Sisters would soon have to vacate the Convent building, because of electrical problems.” 

The first interview was conducted in April last year, when Pat got Sister Marie Byrne to interview Sister Mary Jo Hand in the parlour of the Convent. The only other interview in the Convent was with Sister Ann Matthews in the oratory, who provided a perfect ending for the documentary.

Pat continued: “It was obvious the Sisters were going through a difficult time, so I put a hold on interviews and concentrated on gathering footage to complement the documentary. The remainder of the interviews happened in various locations from Monaghan to Dublin. I knew at some stage I was going to have to face the problems the Sisters faced in leaving the Convent.”

“There were a number of topics I had to deal with:

1. What was going to happen to the building?  2. Where were the Sisters going to live ?
3. Who owns the building? and so on.” 

“I hope you like what I have put together in this edited short version of the documentary I am showing. Finally, I would like to thank the St Louis Sisters for their generosity and encouragement in allowing me to tell their story through difficult times. I hope that both documentaries will be viewed as an historical and social record of the Sisters’ time in Carrickmacross. There are a lot of people including the Sisters who encouraged me to create this documentary, I hope they are happy with what I have produced.”


The first video which includes spectacular aerial footage shot by Ken Finegan from Ardee using a drone was then shown to the audience.

Brian Mohan used the opportunity before the DVD started playing to delve into some 19thC newspaper reports around the time the original Convent building was being extended. 

On 20thApril 1889 The Dundalk Democrat carried a report on the new wing that was to be added to the Convent. It outlined how the good people of Carrickmacross put their own work in abeyance; got the stones, brick, sand and lime; placed themselves, their horses and carts at the disposal of the good nuns and delivered all to the site for the contractor.

“Not to be outdone by Carrickmacross, the people of Magheracloone sent horses and carts by the score to draw bricks from Kingscourt to the Convent. On hearing of this, brave old sterling Killanny stated that they would make a turn out for the new building that would astonish the natives. Donaghmoyne were eager to get in on the act and threatened to eclipse all other parishes.”

“So even then there was a rivalry between parishes to see which of them would perform the most work to lessen the expenses of a new building which the St Louis sisters found it necessary to erect for the efficient working of their schools. Obviously some things haven’t changed, with Killanny and Donaghmoyne still all talk and no action, and not a word from Corduff!” Mr Mohan said, prompting laughter amongst the audience. 

Following the showing of the first documentary, a representative of the retired teachers at St Louis Secondary School, Chris Johnston, was invited to make a presentation to the sisters of a painting of the Convent by past pupil and Donaghmoyne native, Kate Beagan. Kathleen Tinnelly presented prints of the painting to Sr Maureen McShane for distribution to the other sisters. A bouquet of flowers was presented by former principal Art Agnew to Sr Enda McMullan. Sheila Murray presented Sr Hand with a book of well wishes. 


Introducing his second DVD entitled ‘200 Years of Carrickmacross Lace’, Pat Byrne explained that there was no way anyone could tell the story of the St Louis sisters without looking at Carrickmacross Lace and the involvement of the sisters in the lace industry. Carrickmacross Lace has a 200 year history, he said. 

He continued: “I would like to thank Sister Enda McMullan for narrating the Carrickmacross Lace history, her help and support in this project was essential and apologise to her for cutting it in half in the edited version. 

I am not going to spoil it on you by talking anymore about it only to say that the lace industry is still alive and thriving in Carrickmacross today. In the documentary I look at the different styles the lace has evolved into. Martha Hughes has developed her style into a unique 3D modern take on the lace and the way Theresa Kelly has taken her style of lace incorporating it with organic material. Its important that the lace continues to develop and grow. Elizabeth Daly Chairperson of the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery talks about the new gallery and their plans for the future and I wish them well. 

Minister Humphreys was also interviewed for this documentary and a number of questions were asked of her in relation to the RDS Craft Fair, for the answers to those questions you will have to purchase the full version. 

I would like to conclude by thanking everyone for coming out tonight and supporting this event along with the sponsors who contributed to the refreshments which will come later. To all the St. Louis Sisters, too many to mention. They all know who they are, but there are a number of sisters who should be thanked because without their input in the project none of us would be here tonight. 

They are Sister Marie Byrne, Sister Mary Jo Hand, Sister Ann Matthews, Sister Bridin Maloney and Sister Enda McMullan. 

There are a also a number of people I have bounced ideas off and have viewed and given constructive criticism that fed into the finished project. They are Sean Egan, Brian Mohan and Dr Rory and Teresa O’Hanlon. I would like to thank the staff of the Nuremore Hotel including PJ and Pat Dignam. This is not the first launch I have had in this hotel and hopefully there are more to come. 

Thank you to Ken Finegan for his drone photography, thanks to Barry Jay Hughes for his music “Keystone”. To the people at the back of the hall that are selling the DVD’s thank you. When I asked them to do the job they never batted an eye they just said no problem, again thanks to each and everyone of you for that. 

Thanks to PJ McCabe for the use of his Carrickmacross Lace and help with the opening scene and looking after the visitors’ book. Thanks to Liam Connolly on sound; he has always been supportive. Finally to my wife Marie for all her help and support with this project, I have no doubt that her input has also fed into this project for the better and I thank her for that.” 

Before showing highlights of the second DVD on the history of Carrickmacross Lace (duration one hour), Brian Mohan introduced the group Starling Blue, consisting of Hannah O Brien, Liebe Kelly, Louise Steele and Patrice Doherty. Their unique acapella vocal sound has gained them much attention over the last number of years. One of the songs they performed was “The Parting Glass”. 

He then explained that Martha Hughes, one of the leading figures in its recent revival, who was also interviewed for the documentary, was unable to be present owing to the death of her mother, Maddie Hughes, in Hollymount, Co. Mayo. He extended deepest sympathy to Martha and her family on behalf of everyone.

Mr Mohan again delved into the archives, explaining that in November 1964, Minister for Transport and Power and Monaghan TD Erskine Childers accompanied by Mr Ward from the National School and Mr (Pat) Drury, National School teacher, came to the Convent regarding Carrickmacross Lace. It was decided that classes for lace making directed by Miss Eithne Hughes would be held in the vocational school. He added that his own wife Gerladine had attended night classes at the vocational school, where she was taught lace making by Annie Finnegan. “Geraldine went on to make her wedding veil over an eighteen months period and it was featured on the front cover of a booklet issued by the Carrickmacross Lace Co-Op Society Ltd many years ago. Of course Geraldine was keeping up the century old royal tradition of having Carrickmacross lace incorporated in wedding dresses.”

He explained that the documentary was packed with history and interviews with lace makers, and how the tradition has been handed down from one generation to the next. “I sincerely hope that this tradition will continue for years to come,” he concluded.  

Following the screening of the DVD, he called on Elizabeth Daly, Chairperson of Carrickmacross Lace Gallery, to make a presentation to Sr Enda McMullan on behalf of the Gallery, which he reminded everyone was now located in the restored Market House and they were welcome to visit.

Sr Marie Byrne expressed a heartfelt thanks to everyone on behalf of all the Sisters. It was good to see such large numbers had turned out and the night would be long remembered, she said. She thanked Minister Humphreys and Canon Patrick Marron (a native of Carrickmacross and now retired Parish Priest in Fintona, who had celebrated Mass in the Convent oratory) as well as the large cohort of retired teachers and Sisters and visitors who had come to upport the night. She thanked the sponsors for providing the reception. 

“Pat Byrne has made an enormous contribution with his DVD. He was hard working and unobtrusive in his presence and it was a pleasure to work alongside him,” she said. The documentary had captured many reminiscences. Sr Marie thanked the people of Carrickmacross for always being so welcoming over the 130 years the nuns had been present at the Convent and caring for the Sisters. “It’s much appreciated,” she said. 

Sr Marie thanked the retired teachers for the gift of the Kate Beagan painting, which she said was a delightful picture. :It will be treasured and have a special place in our (new) house,” she told the audience. 

She also thanked the cantemus choir led by Lorraine Cotter, graduates of the musical tradition that existed at the St Louis Convent. Their repertoire ranges from haunting medieval to well-known standards, and from classical to rhythmic Celtic tunes.


Closing the proceedings, Brian Mohan thanked Sr Marie Byrne on behalf of the community of Carrickmacross, which he said had benefitted richly from the presence of the St Louis sisters. “May I take the opportunity to thank you all most sincerely for all that you have done and the indelible stamp you have left on so many people’s lives, who have reaped the rewards and benefits of your commitment to the education and betterment of people. He said the people of Carrickmacross were lucky to have someone like Pat Byrne in their midst and his documentaries had captured the essence of the nuns in the town. He hoped his work would stand the test of time for the next 100 years. He called on the Parish Priest of Carrickmacross, Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, to bring the proceedings to an end with a prayer. He said the spirit of the St Louis Sisters had been so closely woven into the fabric of the parish of Machaire Rois that, even when the physical manifestation of their presence had gone, their generous and benevolent spirit would continue to enrich the local community for many years to come. “There is a sadness in the parting, in the closing of a chapter, but also a deep sense of joy in what has been achieved, and an enduring sense of gratitude.”

Afterwards a collection was taken up for the St Louis missions in Africa, such as the communities in Ethiopia and Lagos in Nigeria, where the nuns are working with the survivors of human trafficking. It raised a total of €2270. Further report next week on the two DVDs by Ciarraige Productions which are now on sale at David O’Rourke’s in Carrickmacross and at the Lace Gallery for €20.



Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Thursday 8th December

Over the past fortnight the achievements of Carrickmacross people, businesses and services have received recognition at national level. A local lady Leona Goodman was named as Carer of the Year by a home care company. A local dental team led by Dr Bernie Fee was in the finals for best dental practice in Ireland. University entrance awards and scholarships were presented to some local students. A local business Celtic Pure from Corcreagh founded by Pauric and Pauline McEneaney received another gold medal in London for its sparkling water. Each has a success story to tell and congratulations goes out to all of them.


Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Thursday 8th December


(L-R) Bríd Gould, MD Comfort Keepers, Carer of the Year Leona Goodman from Carrickmacross and Marty Morrissey, RTÉ, who presented the award.

When Marty Morrissey called Leona Goodman to the stage at the Croke Park conference centre in Dublin recently, she says she was left temporarily speechless. The Carrickmacross woman had been named as Carer of the Year in a national competition run by home care providers Comfort Keepers. She received the award in recognition of her work with older people in Monaghan, Cavan and North Meath. She was ranked highest among the 1500 carers employed by the company. At the same event Rosanna Martin from Ballybay was crowned the company’s Employee of the Year.

Leona told the Northern Standard the award came as a total shock. She was “very touched and overwhelmed” when her name was called out. The award was handed to her in the presence of her two daughters, Kelsey and Laura.

Leona lives in Magheraboy on the outskirts of Carrickmacross and is a former pupil of St Louis National School and Secondary School. Her husband Brendan hails from Killanny and is a carpenter working in England, who will return home shortly for Christmas. They were married in New York where they spent four years before returning to Ireland. For many years Leona worked in the Post Office when it was situated at Main Street in Carrickmacross.

She has been working as a carer for some fifteen years, the last two with Comfort Keepers, based in Ardee. She said she loves her job, which brings her into contact with between four and six clients daily within a fifteen miles radius of Carrick, including Corduff, Lisdoonan and Inniskeen.

There are seven other carers in the same team and Leona was anxious that they all got a mention: Charlie, Carla, Lola, Rosemary, Mary, Martina and Geraldine. All providing care to elderly people in the area that enables them to stay in their own homes. The carer is sometimes the person who enables these people (aged between 75 and over 90) to remain in touch with the local community and what’s happening in the outside world, according to Leona.

“Leona has won the hearts of the people she cares for and the colleagues she works with,” said Bríd Gould, Managing Director of Comfort Keepers. “She’s a woman who truly believes in the value of care and is a strong advocate within the caring industry. She doesn’t just believe that her clients need the best care she can provide, but she also believes in the value and knowledge her clients bring into her life.”

Since 2005, Comfort Keepers has been helping people in Ireland and has always sought to ensure that all of its work practices exceed the expectations of both the state and those cared for. It remains unique in being the only home care provider to have been awarded the Q Mark, ISO9001, and Healthmark accreditations for the quality of care and the systems used to support its delivery.

“This is the sixth time we have run these awards,” Bríd Gould continued. “The reason we keep doing it is that our people keep doing the extraordinary. So extraordinary that their colleagues, clients and managers just have to nominate them. So my personal congratulations to everyone who was nominated and to all of our regional winners”, she said.

All of Comfort Keepers’ carers are insured, monitored and are required to undergo Garda vetting. The firm provides ongoing support during their training and in their day-to-day roles.  Staff in the management team come from a nursing or social care background to ensure superior care is provided to customers.








Michael Fisher     Northern Standard  Thursday 1st December 2016


Christina McMahon in Carrickmacross    Pic. Michael Fisher

‘Lightning’ Christina McMahon was due to be in the ring this Saturday in one of the toughest challenges in her career. But instead the professional boxer will be at home in Carrickmacross after the fight was cancelled. She told he supporters on her Facebook page she had received “unfortunate news that my opponent pulled out. No surprise in my world of professional boxing.” The boxer displayed her resilience saying that she wa snow fine, but had been “in a state of shock and annoyance” when the news reached her. Christina commented: “Its a tough cruel game and just too late to sort another opponent for the show, therefore the show is cancelled. Thank you for tremendous support and help. We won’t give up without a fight.”

The boxer thanked Frank Stacey of FS Promotions for trying to put the show on at the National Stadium in Dublin, the other boxers who had been willing to get in and box on the night and everyone who had already bought tickets to support her. 
Anyone who purchased a ticket (€40 for the gallery and €65 for ringside) was promised a refund via Paddy Kwan (087)9907876.

“This is not the end of the journey, just a frustrating situation that will look small in the years to come”, Christina said. She also expressed her appreciation to Shivana Inalsingh of the WBA and female boxing Advocate Eddie Montalvo for working hard with Frank Stacey on alternative options.

“Lightning” was due to face “Triple L” Linda Laura Lecca from Peru for the vacant World Boxing Association female flyweight title. 43 year-old McMahon controversially lost in Mexico to Zulina Muñoz in March and was afterwards promised a rematch. With the WBC continuing to stall on a return bout, her husband and coach Frick McMahon revealed in irishboxing.com a list of alleged indiscretions by the governing body, including glove irregularities, anti-doping procedural failings, and a failure to review the scorecards correctly. Christina was then informed by the WBC she had been suspended by that organization, but remains licensed by the Boxing Union of Ireland.



Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Thursday 1st December p.1


Current Carrickmacross Lace Gallery, Market House  Pic. Michael Fisher

The approval of funding for a new Lace Gallery in Carrickmacross could provide a major boost for tourism in the south Monaghan area and help to open up the town. That’s the view of Bill Cotter, chair of the South Monaghan Tourism Forum and honorary member of the Lace Co-op. The former Fine Gael TD said the tourism group had been working actively to promote Carrick and the grant was long overdue. The development of a lace centre in what used to be a branch library in Market Square would give the group confidence to continue their efforts to bring in visitors from different parts of the world, he said.

Mr Cotter was reacting to the announcement on Monday by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, that the sum of €100,000 had been approved to develop the Market House site for multipurpose use including a new Lace Gallery, and to develop enterprise sites. Clones is also to receive funding as a heritage centre under the €5.3 million REDZ (Rural Economic Development Zones) initiative. (see separate story). The programme aims to stimulate economic development in rural towns and their hinterlands. The money is being spent on 41 projects nationwide, with €1.9 million going to projects in the northern and western region.


Elizabeth Daly, Chair, Carrickmacross Lace Gallery  Pic. Michael Fisher

The good news reached the Lace Gallery Co-op Chair Elizabeth Daly on Tuesday afternoon. She said the members of the group were absolutely delighted at the prospect of moving to an enlarged and far superior display area next year. It would help to put lace at the forefront of tourism in south Monaghan.

Looking at the visitor book in the small unit that the gallery currently occupies, the entries range from Ireland (Dublin, Sligo, Glenties), Hillsborough and Bangor in Co. Down, England (Cambridge and London), France (Carhaix), Australia and several from the USA. The Co-op continues to receive orders from visitors and online. An order for a long lace veil for a wedding was recently completed for a bride from Virginia in the USA. She collected the finished work (which took seven months to produce) just in time for her wedding in County Wicklow.


                 Elizabeth Daly, Chair, Carrickmacross Lace Gallery Pic. Michael Fisher

Almost 3000 people have called into them this year. Moving across to the other side of the Market Square and with more space to display their craftwork and range of gifts could potentially treble the number of visitors annually, according to the gallery. At the moment, a coach tour of fifty people has to be split up into small groups of six or seven if they want to visit the display. The larger area will enable them to handle the larger groups and to enhance the display of Carrickmacross lace, with its five special characteristics such as loops.

The Co-op began in 1984 and the first share was purchased by a St Louis nun Sr Cronin who had been involved with the promotion of lace at the convent in Carrickmacross. “Your mission is to keep this skill alive”, she told them. Elizabeth Daly now teaches lace-making and has organised a series of workshops in recent years. The new location will hopefully provide room for the classes.


Carrickmacross Market House  Pic. Michael Fisher

The Co-op was originally situated in the old Shirley tollhouse but moved to the opposite side of Main Street in 1990. The renovation of the Market House building which dates back to 1861 was approved by Monaghan County Council in June last year. The idea is that the square should become a central focus for tourism in the town, where more walking trails are being developed. The nine-bay central section has a large gabled carriage entrance which will be transformed into a foyer between two large units. The one of the right which used to house a branch library will become the new Lace Gallery. The unit on the other side is earmarked for a shop and studio. The public toilets will be re-arranged and windows and doors will be refurbished with the objective of securing the preservation of this site of architectural and historical interest.

The Cathaoirleach of Carrickmacross Castleblayney Municipal District Cllr Aidan Campbell said he was delighted that the money had come through for the project. He looked forward to seeing the development started in the New Year and said it was very timely. He pointed out that Castleblayney had benefited in the past year from the same scheme, which had enabled buildings to be painted and new signage erected.

Announcing the funding, Minister Humphreys said: “The REDZ scheme aims to improve links between rural towns and their hinterlands to stimulate activity at a local level. It is one of a number of schemes which my department has been rolling out to boost economic activity and improve living standards across rural Ireland.”

“This initiative encourages local authorities to work with local communities, Chambers of Commerce, business interests and other state bodies, to identify areas of greatest economic need which can make better use of their local assets to generate economic activity. This is all about the regeneration of rural towns and villages and empowering local communities to provide local residents with local opportunities”, she added.

Other initiatives recently introduced by the government as part of this programme include the new €10 million Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the approval of almost €7.5 million to support rural recreation infrastructure, the establishment of a national taskforce to identify practical measures which can be taken in the short-term to improve broadband and mobile phone coverage in rural areas, and the establishment of two regional broadband action groups to prepare for the roll-out of broadband under the National Broadband Plan.

Carrickmacross is well known for the attractive lace bearing its name. The lace is worked in an individual style, devised by Mrs Grey Porter, wife of the rector of Donaghmoyne, who introduced it in 1820. When she left the district the teaching of lacemaking was continued by Miss Reid of Rahans, but it was only after the 1846 famine, when a lace school was set up by the managers of the Bath and Shirley estates at Carrickmacross as a means of helping their tenants, that the lace became known and found sales.

In the last decade of the 19th century the Sisters of St Louis founded their own lace school to revive the craft, and this was quite profitable for several years. Although the outbreak of the 1914–18 war marked the virtual end of commercial production of hand-made lace in Europe, the lace school kept the technique alive throughout most of the 20th century. Carrickmacross lace also featured on the late Princess Diana’s wedding dress.




Christina McMahon was given a warm reception in Carrickmacross last year after her WBC interim bantamweight title win  Pic. Michael Fisher


Michael Fisher    Northern Standard  Thursday 25th August 2016 p.5

Carrickmacross boxer ‘Lightning’ Christina McMahon has been suspended by the World Boxing Council after she gave interviews about a number of concerns she had before, during and after her WBC super flyweight title challenge against Zulina Munoz in Mexico in March. She was controversially defeated by Munoz on points. Her husband and manager Frick recently revealed evidence of what he claims was glove tampering and improper anti-doping procedures in addition to dubious scorecards.

Christina McMahon still ranks as the WBC interim World Bantamweight Champion received a Facebook message yesterday (Wednesday) from the Chair of the WBC Female Championship Committee Malte Müller-Michaelis informing her of her suspension in the wake of revelations to a number of media outlets which cast serious doubt over the result of the fight in Juarez. She made her comments during the Olympic Games in Rio, when an Irish boxer Michael Conlan was judged to have been beaten by a Russian opponent.



Northern Standard reporter Michael Fisher was among a group from the Guild of Agricultural Journalists invited to tour the ABP meat plant at Clones last Thursday. The company organised a visit to a local beef farmer near Carrickmacross and sponsored a barbeque and dinner. The event was organised three months ago. NORTHERN STANDARD Thursday 16th June 2016 p.14


ABP Clones General Manager George Mullan with a group from the Guild of Agricultural Journalists. Photo courtesy of ABP.


Irish beef has begun to re-establish its first class reputation on the menus of leading restaurants and the shelves of supermarkets in Britain and Europe. The Bord Bia Origin Green scheme of which the ABP Group is a founder member emphasises sustainability and the reduction of environmental impact. So any development in the agri-sector that could affect the reputation of quality beef is potentially worrying.

The ABP Group owned by businessman Larry Goodman is the largest beef processor in Ireland and the UK. It is proud of its record in producing quality Irish beef mainly for export to the United Kingdom and Europe. Various measures are taken at processing plants such as Clones to ensure that high standards are maintained at all times.

Visits to the ABP factory in Clones are strictly regulated. Human hygiene is crucial, as in any meat or food plant. On entry to the plant, visitors must wear protective clothing and hairnets, as well as removing jewellery. Footwear must be replaced by wellington boots, which are scrubbed meticulously in a special walk-through unit before entry is permitted to the boning and other sections. Hands must be washed and disinfectant gels applied.

The boning plant has different sections and each part of the animal carcass is used up along the line, starting with the hide. By-products are sent to some of the company’s other units.

The top class steak cuts were skillfully removed and later packaged, labelled with ABP’s own brand. In the packing hall differently coloured boxes indicated the various countries the meat was destined for, such as the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.


Veterinary inspectors from the Department of Agriculture check the carcasses and stamp them before they are processed. Each carcass is given a tag with details of the farm it came from and where it was slaughtered. Photographs are taken of each individual carcass as it passes along the production line. New tags with barcodes are attached and after chilling they are sent to the boning hall. This is to ensure traceability of the meat to help reassure customers at the end of the food chain and to ensure quality can be maintained.

The tour of the plant then moves outside to the lairage facility where cattle arrive to be processed. The ABP Food Group say animal welfare is a cornerstone of their business, so they have invested heavily in ensuring that customers can be 100% secure in the integrity of their processes.

The company source farm-assured cattle from throughout Ireland (including Co. Monaghan) and the UK. Although the fields of Co. Fermanagh are just a stone’s throw away, the company processes only cattle from the Republic, within a 50 mile distance of the plant. This is because there are special regulations for processing cattle from the North and they could not be handled at the same time as animals from the Republic.

ABP worked closely with the bestselling author and world-renowned livestock-expert Dr Temple Grandin to design and plan their facilities and procedures. She approved every aspect of the holding pens (lairage), assisting the company’s goal to ensure cattle are relaxed and stress-free prior to slaughter. There is a special slat rubber system for the cattle to walk on. Not only does this give livestock the respect and integrity they deserve, but the lower pre-mortem glycogen levels and PH balance of stress-free animals make for a higher quality and tenderness of carcass, according to ABP.

Dr Grandin campaigned to reduce the prodding of cattle with electric goads by showing a humane approach makes much better quality meat. She designed the lairage with curved solid walls, baffled gate latches to cut down noise, and uniform colour and lighting to reduce stress on the cattle. The curved walls ensure each animal is prevented from seeing what lies ahead and just concentrates on the hind quarters of the animal in front of it.


ABP Clones General Manager George Mullan (right) explaining the various stages of processing at the meat plant to Michael Fisher. Photo courtesy of ABP.

George Mullan, general manager of ABP Clones, who showed the visiting group around the plant, said since the lairage was opened three years ago he had noticed a huge difference in the behaviour of cattle at the plant. They’re happier animals and calmer at all times, he said. “Animal welfare is a very major concern of the consumer in this present day”, he added.

Mr Mullan explained how following slaughter the patented hanging process increased the natural breakdown of muscle fibres in each carcass while it hung and matured prior to de-boning. ABP Food Group has also created a method of sympathetically chilling the carcass to prevent cold shortening and guarantee absolute tenderness in the beef.

The Managing Director of ABP Beef (Ireland) Finbarr McDonnell outlined the group’s four divisions. ABP Food Group Ireland is Europe’s leading beef exporter, specialising in beef processing, de-boning and retail packing. It has a long tradition of working with farmers and customers, operating highly efficient factories supplying quality beef to European and worldwide retail markets.

The UK branch of ABP is a leading supplier of fresh and frozen meat and meat-free products. It continues to drive innovation in every aspect of business, including collaborative partnerships with customers, to industry leading practices in processing and product development. The ABP Ellesmere development near Liverpool is an example of embedding sustainability at the heart of the company’s operations. Over £20million has been invested to make this plant a carbon neutral operation.

ABP Pet Foods is one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of private label pet food, producing 570,000 tonnes every year from seven facilities. C&D Foods with headquarters in Mullingar is headed by Philip Reynolds, whose father set up the original company. Philip sold a majority interest in the business to ABP in 2011.

The fourth arm of the group is Olleco, the largest collector of used cooking oil in these islands, employing 550 people. It helps many of the biggest restaurants and catering groups to maximise the environmentally sustainable treatment of waste food and oil products.

More than 30 years ago used cooking oil was collected and used in animal feed. When this was banned owing to tighter regulations, a huge amount of used cooking oil ended up in landfill or was illegally poured into drains. Olleco looked at other ways to recover the value from this resource. The company started to collect both used cooking oil and food waste and convert them into renewable energy instead of throwing it away.

With fourteen depots across the UK the company is one of the UK’s largest distributors of cooking oils to the catering trade. In 2013 a specialist biodiesel plant was constructed in Liverpool. Capable of producing 16 million litres of biodiesel it is the UK’s largest purpose built plant dedicated to producing biodiesel from used cooking oil. Two years later Olleco opened the first anaerobic digestion plant, providing the heat and power to operate the biodiesel plant. Tallow is collected at the Clones plant and is sent to England for processing.

Finbarr McDonnell joined ABP in 1973 and held a variety of positions with the company including Group Production Manager and Factory Manager at the Cahir plant. He was appointed Chief Executive of ABP Beef (Ireland) in January 2008. He predicted that with a market turning its back on Friesian types and a re-nationalisation of the French market, cattle prices could be hit in the latter half of 2016.

“It is unfortunate that sterling is where it is and unfortunate that live exports are dead in the water,” he told the Guild of Agricultural Journalists. He urged the country’s expanding dairy sector to prioritise cross-breeding with the traditional Irish Hereford and Angus breeds for which ABP were pushing an open door on export markets. He said the company was ‘concerned’ about how the Brexit referendum next Thursday might turn out.

Mr McDonnell said the market was now ten times more in favour of Hereford and Angus than Friesian beef, adding that he was “very worried” about the consequences for the progeny of dairy farms unless they adapted to breeding more for market requirements. ABP currently handled over a fifth of national output, equivalent to 125,000t per year. It planned to expand further on its 41 sites within the EU employing up to 9000 people. The company was optimistic of a successful outcome to its bid to buy 50pc of Slaney Foods within the coming weeks. The move would result in ABP controlling 28% of the national beef kill.

A year ago ABP Food Group completed a €50 million redevelopment of its facilities in Cahir, Co. Tipperary. It included an extension and upgrade of food processing facilities as well as the introduction of a new state-of-the-art gel bone production plant at its neighbouring by-products site. A report by Oxford Economics and KPMG found that the upgraded facilities employing over 600 people are expected to be worth over €200 million a year to the local economy in Tipperary and surrounding counties.

The plant in Clones employs around 300, with 60% of the staff coming from abroad, including Lithuania and Poland. Based on the Cahir study, this would indicate that the Teehill factory brings in a benefit of around €100 million a year to Co. Monaghan and the surrounding area. This is taking into account employment created by the factory in subsidiary areas like haulage and canteen supplies. ABP is one of the largest employers in the county. It also contributes to the local community through charitable activities such as sport.


Freddie and Caroline Merrin farm land at Ballyloughan, Lough Fea, outside Carrickmacross. The Merrins operate a weanling to beef system and have received Bord Bia awards for their product. They are members of the 150-strong Monaghan Quality Cattle Producer Group that supplies cattle to ABP in Clones. Freddie is originally from Killanny and Caroline comes from Kells, Co. Meath.

The farm is 170 acres and there is a similar acreage on a long-term lease from the adjoining Lough Fea estate. The Merrins are helped by their three children, Emma, George, and Linda, a Leaving Certificate student at St Louis secondary school, Carrickmacross. Emma and George are both attend UCD, studying history and science respectively.

Weanlings are grazed and finished out of the shed as either bulls or steers the following winter. The sheds are multi-functional and there is a huge emphasis on grass utilisation. At the moment there are around 700 cattle on the farm. Freddie bought in 350 calves over a five-week period starting in mid-February. He would usually go to the mart in Bandon to buy them.

After a spell in the sheds the calves are out out to grass between mid-May and mid-June. Bull calves would usually be brought to be killed before 24 months and heifer calves before 20 months. When it came to sending them to the factory there could be no room for sentimentality, Freddie said.

ABP Group Livestock Manager Paul Mathews said the company was investing in genetics and had its own herd for research. He said they needed to build up a strong database about breeds and they were working alongside the Irish Aberdeen Angus Association. The Merrins enterprise was one of the best examples of a family farm amongst their suppliers, according to the company.




Michael Fisher  NORTHERN STANDARD Thursday 2nd June 2016 p.14

The EirGrid Chief Executive Fintan Slye has said the proposed North/South electricity interconnector will secure energy supply across the island of Ireland. His comments are included in the company’s recently published annual report 2015 ‘Connecting Jobs and Prosperity’.

Mr Slye attended the oral hearing in Carrickmacross twice in the closing stages in May to observe the proceedings and to talk to the company’s representatives. But he made no comment on the hearing itself.

Chairman John O’Connor presented the EirGrid annual report to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White, following the company’s annual general meeting. Mr O’Connor said: “delivering the right electricity grid and operating it securely and efficiently for the entire island of Ireland, north and south, is what guides us in EirGrid Group.

Last year continued a trend of strong financial performance. Group revenue was €706.2m, making it €37.9m (5.7%) higher than 2014. Profit before tax was €40.7 million, with underlying profits at €16.9 million. Based on this strong performance, we are able to deliver a proposed dividend of €3.5 million to our shareholder (the exchequer).”

Mr O’Connor continued: “in the previous annual report 2014, I said that the EirGrid group of companies were on a constant mission to improve how we do things and that this requires us to embrace change. A year on, I can truthfully say that this commitment can be seen across all aspects of our business.”

“It is evident in the way we are planning for the future needs of the electricity transmission grid. It is evident in the way we are reaching out to and consulting with communities and individuals who are affected by, or have an interest in, our projects. It is evident in the way we are breaking new ground in accommodating an ever higher share of renewable generation on the grid. It is evident in the large investment in new wholesale electricity market systems to ensure we have the most competitive prices possible,” he added.

EirGrid Chief Executive Fintan Slye commented: “throughout 2015 we have worked closely with some of the biggest companies in the world to foster jobs and prosperity in communities across the island. Much of this work has focused on the development of data centres, for example, Apple in Athenry, Co. Galway, Facebook in Clonee, Co. Meath and Microsoft in Grangecastle, Co. Dublin. Large data centres are high energy users, so they will often connect directly to the electricity grid. Developments such as these bring construction jobs, long-term employment and increased rates to fund local council facilities.”

“Though electricity is just one element of the critical infrastructure that underpins these investments, we work hard to ensure that power quality, energy prices and security of supply bring such customers to the table. I would like to thank Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White, and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, Jonathan Bell, for their positive engagement throughout the year”, the CEO added.

In the annual report Mr Slye said 2015 was a milestone year for the North/South Interconnector project, as the company submitted a planning application to An Bord Pleanála in June. In the same month they also submitted the necessary paperwork to the Department of Environment in Belfast, thus completing the information required for recommencement of the public inquiry into the project in Northern Ireland. The North/South Interconnector will secure energy supply across the island of Ireland, Mr Slye said.

EirGrid Chair John O’Connor said the North/South interconnector was the single most important and most urgent infrastructure project on the island of Ireland. Designated a ‘Project of Common Interest’ by the European Commission, the interconnector was urgently needed to secure adequate electricity supply in Northern Ireland. It would facilitate the optimal operation of the all-island electricity market, for the benefit of people and businesses everywhere.

According to Mr O’Connor the interconnector also provides a local benefit to the people in the North East, by increasing the capacity of the electricity network in the region. In turn, this would help to attract inward investment and jobs. Subject to the planning process now underway, EirGrid were committed to delivering this project as soon as possible for the benefit of electricity consumers in both jurisdictions.

Rosemary Steen, EirGrid’s executive director of external affairs, said the launch of their draft grid development strategy, “Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tomorrow”, in March 2015 was another significant step forward for the group. This draft strategy was a response to feedback received from the public during consultations on major grid development projects. It also represented a key part of their efforts to encourage greater participation in the decision-making process.

Your Grid, Your Views, Your Tomorrow reflected an updated view of the economic context for developing the grid. The strategy further incorporated EirGrid’s growing experience of promising new transmission technologies. It included a new Regional Option for the Grid Link project and a hybrid option for the Grid West project. It also concluded that overhead lines were the best solution for the North/South interconnector.

Ms Steen said: “we continue to engage with local communities on this key project and have recently initiated a wide-ranging outreach and information campaign. This has resulted in meetings and dialogue with many community members on issues including undergrounding, environmental interests and health concerns. We are staffing community offices, holding regional discussion forums and are communicating more widely to better explain our plans. A key initiative has been the appointment of Agriculture and Community Liaison Officers across the island, as well as a public affairs lead in Northern Ireland. The development of a consultation handbook and toolkit, plus the adoption of “plain English” in our publications, further reflects our commitment to meaningful and accessible engagement.”

She added: “we seek to engage early with public representatives in Stormont and the Oireachtas, and across local government. This provides government feedback while also acting as an avenue to engage with local communities. Our Chief Executive appeared twice during the year (2015) at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. This was accompanied by outreach and walk-in sessions with Senators and TDs, which provided some valuable feedback. We also worked within the framework of the government’s new Regional Action Plan for Jobs. We were delighted when the North South Interconnector was identified as a key enabler of jobs and development through this forum.”

“In Northern Ireland, we carried out a significant body of political engagement, which included briefings with all tiers of elected representatives across each political party; from Councillors to MEPs. We were honoured when Minister Jonathan Bell opened our new SONI offices in June. We also briefed several of the new local government districts or ‘super-councils’, a programme which will continue throughout 2016.”

“As we look forward, engagement, consultation and outreach will continue to form a key part of our grid development strategy. While further consultation is not required as part of the planning process for the North/South interconnector, we are committed to continue informing and engaging with local communities.”

John Fitzgerald, executive director grid development and interconnection, explained how the company had been delivering the grid to meet future needs. In co-operation with NIE and ESB, they identified and submitted an application for planning approval for the North/South 400 kV interconnection development. The interconnector, he said, would increase the security and reliability of electricity supply to households and businesses throughout the island of Ireland. It would support growth and boost existing industry in the North East region and ensure a continuing reliability of electricity supply. It would enable the all-island wholesale electricity market to work efficiently, allowing for increased competition in electricity supply, thereby offering consumers choice and competitive prices.


The annual report also gives some details regarding remuneration. The Chairperson’s fees were equivalent to €21,600 per annum during the year (2014: €21,600). Directors’ fees were equivalent to €12,600 each per annum during the year (2014: €12,600). The only executive Board Member during the year was the Chief Executive, Fintan Slye.

The Chief Executive’s remuneration is set by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The remuneration of the Chief Executive consists of basic salary, taxable benefits and certain retirement benefits. The retirement benefits of the Chief Executive are calculated on basic pay only and aim to provide in retirement a pension of one-eightieth and a gratuity of three-eightieths of salary for each year of service as Chief Executive.

The increases in accrued pension and accrued gratuity excluding inflation during the year to 30th September 2015 were €2,125 (2014: €2,125) and €6,375 (2014: €6,375) respectively. The total accrued pension at the end of the year was €16,170 (2014: €14,045) and the total accrued gratuity was €53,660 (2014: €47,285). The transfer value of the relevant increase was €28,541 (2014: €27,141).

The Chief Executive’s remuneration:

Basic salary €170,000 30/09/15 (€170k 2014)

Annual Bonus – –

Taxable benefits €18,000 (€18k 2014)

Pension contributions paid €29,000 (€26k 2014)

Director’s fees – –

TOTAL: €217,000  2015   (€214,000  2014)