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.




Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys T.D. hands over the Virginia Milk Products Cup for the Diageo Baileys Champion All Ireland Cow at the 75th Virginia Show. The top prize of €2500 went to Hallow Advent Twizzle 3, from the Holstein herd owned by Philip and Linda Jones from Killowen, Gorey, Co. Wexford.



Prince Charles at the Somme Centenary Service at the Thiepval Memorial  Pic. PA


President and Minister Humphreys Participate in Battle of Somme Centenary

Michael Fisher  NORTHERN STANDARD Thursday 7th July 2016 p.1

Britain’s Prince Charles has told Minister Heather Humphreys during an informal meeting at the Somme Centenary in France he would be happy to return to Ireland on another visit. The Minister who chairs the consultation group on commemorations said the Prince of Wales told her he had been very impressed with Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal.

Six weeks ago Minister Humphreys welcomed Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Duchess of Cornwall to Glenveagh. The Minister described it as one of the jewels of Ireland’s natural heritage. It is one of six national parks in Ireland and is run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which comes under the brief of Minister Humphreys.

The Cavan/Monaghan TD accompanied President Higgins at the Thiepval Memorial last Friday for a service marking the start of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916. The Minister said it was very important that the Irish Defence Forces led by Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett had been included in the ceremony along with British and Commonwealth servicemen and women.


Following the poignant service attended by 10,000 guests Minister Humphreys represented the government at a wreath-laying ceremony at the nearby Ulster Tower. It is beside Thiepval Wood where soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division including some Monaghan men left the trenches at 7.30am on July 1st 1916 to advance towards the German lines. She laid a wreath along with the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster MLA and the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers MP.

The previous day Heather Humphreys paid tribute to the 16th Irish Division who had entered the battle two months later at Guillemont and also sustained heavy losses. The Minister attended a special performance in Amiens by the Abbey Theatre of the play “Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme”.


On Saturday, the Minister will attend the main state event to commemorate the Somme Centenary, which is being held in conjunction with the Royal British Legion. It will take place in the Irish National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge in Dublin at 12 noon and will be televised live by RTÉ.

Invited guests will include members of the government, Council of State, elected representatives, members of the diplomatic corps and judiciary, and representatives of a large number of veterans’ organisations. It will involve a wreath-laying by the President Higgins. Ambassadors of the countries that fought at the Somme and the Presidents of the Royal British Legion from the Republic and Northern Ireland will also lay wreaths.

Speaking to the Northern Standard on her return from France, Minister Humphreys said the services in Thiepval had been very moving. She said the representation of the Irish government and Defence Forces at the Ulster Tower had been very much appreciated. She met representatives of the Orange Order there, building on contacts developed when she attended the visit by Prince Charles in May to a new Museum of Orange Heritage at Loughgall, Co. Armagh, which had been part-funded by the Irish government.

The Minister said she had wanted the programme of events for the centenary commemorations to be inclusive and respectful and it had been. It had opened up our understanding of events in 1916. It was not about one narrative, but concerned all the narratives and it was important to hear all the personal accounts from that era. People like 18 year-old Katie McGrane from Magheracloone, who in a letter to her mother dated May 2nd, 1916 had described the streets of Dublin city centre in the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

We had matured as a nation in our ability to accept and hear about the events and stories of one hundred years ago, the Minister said. We had reconnected with our history and there was now a great sense of pride, she said. She felt there had been great community engagement for the commemorative programme, including in County Monaghan. This included the distribution of the national flag to national schools with talks on civic duty and citizenship.

She believed it was important to keep the momentum going. She complimented the great work done for the 1916 Centenary by Monaghan County Council, the County Museum, the library service as well as local arts and heritage groups.


Minister Humphreys also responded to criticism she was failing to protect buildings at Moore Street in Dublin city centre connected with the Easter Rising. Last month the government decided to bring an appeal to the Supreme Court over a High Court ruling which declared Moore Street to be a 1916 “battlefield site” and was therefore due to be protected. Earlier this year, a court action had been successfully taken by the 1916 Relatives Group which sought to prevent the destruction of buildings on the street.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD condemned the decision by the government to appeal the High Court judgement. He said it was scandalous that in the centenary year of the Rising the government would refuse to uphold a court judgement that would protect Moore Street and its environs that were part of the legacy of 1916. Instead of defending and protecting the historical legacy of the Rising the government was putting the rights of developers and profiteers first, Mr Adams claimed.

Minister Humphreys said she was the first Minister to do anything about purchasing the site at 14-17 Moore Street last year. They had then embarked on a programme of conservation for the four buildings, to show what they were like in 1916 with the holes between the houses used by the rebels to move from one room to another. This site was where the Rising’s leaders held their last council of war and decided to surrender.

The Minister argued that other buildings on the street had been constructed after 1916 and were not historically significant. The vast bulk of the surrounding properties were privately owned. Her remit extended to the National Monument, which was being preserved. These houses retained significant 18th-century elements, including staircases, partitions, plasterwork, doors, floors, fittings and fixtures. The development of the wider street was a matter for Dublin City Council, she said.

However in his High Court judgment, Mr Justice Max Barrett said the wealth of evidence before the court pointed to historical significance in some of the other buildings. These included number 10, a portion of the parting wall at number 13 and number 18, as well as the building at 20-21 Moore Street.

Minister Humphreys said owing to the potential widespread implications of the “battlefield” judgement for planning and development nationally, the government had decided to appeal the decision. If the whole street was a national monument, then how would this translate to other historical sites, she asked. She said she fully understood that Moore Street was a location that held great importance for many people.

The Minister said she intended to establish a consultative group on Moore Street with an independent Chair as a means to make positive progress in relation to the future of the street. The group would include cross-party Oireachtas members and other relevant stakeholders including the 1916 relatives. She hoped they would sit down and see how they could progress the situation and make sure the four precious buildings were restored.

The completed project would be a permanent legacy to the leaders of 1916. She hoped the group could chart a way forward. The government was committed to looking after the four buildings with their original fabric, she said.



Michael Fisher Northern Standard  Thursday 23rd June p.1

The border town of Clones with its rich monastic past has the potential to be developed as a heritage destination, according to the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys. She suggested a monastic trail could be established in the borderlands area, linking Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way in the west. The Minister was speaking at the launch at the Canal Stores of a digital pictorial record of the High Cross in the Diamond and St Tighernach’s Tomb Shrine.

The laser scan of these important monuments was carried out earlier this year by the Discovery Programme, the national archaeological research body, following a €5,000 grant from the Minister’s department. She said the detailed 3D work would make it easier to preserve and restore the High Cross, which was a focal point in Clones.

“I want to see the cross fully restored, and I would like to see Clones marketed as a monastic heritage town. The Discovery Programme, which carried out this 3D scan, has compiled hundreds of digital images of similar historical objects around the country”, the Minister said. The images are available on various platforms including mobile phones.

Former Bishop of Clogher and medieval expert Dr Joseph Duffy of the Clogher Historical Society said the project showed the importance of our monastic heritage. Clones had been seriously under-estimated in our time, he said. He was particularly interested in the dating of the cross by archaeologist Professor Tadhg O’Keeffe of UCD, showing it was almost contemporary with the Viking invasion., dating possibly between 875AD and 925AD.

Dr Duffy told the Northern Standard the digital models would help to open up a whole new vista of our heritage that had not been previously realised. He said the detailed images of the high cross including the stonework figures captured by the hand-held scanner used brought up the variety of skills and highly developed and refined craftsmanship in medieval Ireland. He was impressed by the images of the cross that had now been recorded for posterity and could be viewed on the 3D-Icons website.

Minister Humphreys said the scanning and digitisation of the Clones cross was a very important first step as part of the project to restore the monument to its former glory. She had officially launched the 3D-Icons project last year in the Royal Irish Academy. She saw how much interest and excitement it had generated amongst some very learned scholars.

The programme promised to make our built heritage much more accessible and appreciated. That promise had been delivered upon in Clones, where our local heritage had literally had new life breathed into it. Clones was rich in monastic heritage and this announcement was a very important step to help us understand more about the high cross.

Historic buildings and archaeological monuments formed an important part of our cultural heritage, a heritage that it was important to value. Historic monuments were the physical testimonies of European history and testified to the diverse cultures that led to the creation of the rich European landscape they knew today. 3D scanning was now becoming an increasingly popular way to document built heritage.

Well over 100 well-known buildings and monuments had now been scanned and modelled, including the Hill of Tara, Derry’s Walls, Skellig Michael, Glendalough, Clonmacnoise, Knowth, Newgrange and over seventy high crosses, including Clones Market Cross. The 3D-Icons project was a great example of how projects could be developed that combined technology with all aspects of heritage.

The Minister congratulated local communities for their co-operation with and facilitation of such projects. In Clones she had had a very constructive meeting on the possibilities of developing Clones as a heritage destination. As a former monastic settlement, Clones had a huge amount to offer. She wanted to look at ways to enhance the town and attract new visitors.

She said there was no intention at the moment to move the cross from its present position and any such change would not be done unless it was in co-operation with the local community. If there was substantial erosion to the stonework in the next twenty years or so, then they now had a digital record that could be used to construct an exact replica. This would also allow them to put the original cross in a place where it was protected from the weather.

“The preservation of our built heritage is a subject about which I am particularly passionate”, the Minister went on, “and it will continue to be a priority under my new portfolio, which encompasses Rural Affairs and Regional Development, including the roll-out of rural broadband. In conclusion, I have no doubt that the Discovery Programme’s ongoing 3D work will prove to be an essential source of guidance and knowledge for everyone interested not only in architectural and archaeological monuments, but also new technology, for many years to come.”

Archaeologist Dr Finbar McCormick who is originally from Rockcorry and attended secondary school in Monaghan is a senior lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast and Chair of the Discovery Programme. He hoped that with the support of the Heritage Council, they could run outreach programmes to promote an appreciation of Ireland’s archaeological past. County Monaghan has a rich heritage, he said.

Dr McCormick praised the work done by Monaghan County Museum since its foundation in 1974 as the first local authority funded museum. He praised the foresight of the late George Cannon, the County Manager at the time, and the work done by the Clogher Historical Society, one of the earliest such groups to be established in Ulster. He explained how the new scanning technology would enable experts to monitor any erosion of monuments and to record them for posterity.

Professor O’Keeffe gave a short lecture on the history of the Market Cross. Standing in the Diamond in Clones, the cross is made up of at least three fragments consisting of the head of one cross and the shaft of another, a stepped stone base and a later fragment on top. He said this was not surprising as Clones was an important medieval religious settlement dedicated to St Tighernach, whose tomb shrine is in the medieval churchyard. It would have had a number of crosses on its boundary and within its domain.

The cross belongs to a northern group of crosses, another example of which is located at Arboe, Co.Tyrone on the shores of Lough Neagh. As with many Irish high crosses it was difficult to date, especially as it was made up of various fragments. In Professor O’Keeffe’s estimation some of the fragments may date to the ninth or tenth centuries, the main period of construction of high crosses.

The iconography follows the pattern found elsewhere: the shaft depicts ‘Daniel in the Lions’ Den’, ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac’, ‘Adam and Eve with the Tree of Life’, ‘The Adoration of the Magi’, ‘The Wedding at Cana’ and ‘The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes’. Beaded decoration runs up sides of the two faces and also around distinctive collar at top of the shaft. The head of cross includes a Crucifixion scene while at the centre of south-west of head is another depiction of ‘Daniel in the Lions’ Den’, with ‘Cain slaying Abel’ to left and possibly ‘Pilate washing his hands’ to right.

Professor O’Keeffe pointed out that an enduring paradox of early medieval Christianity in Ireland was that its great works of art such as its high crosses, illuminated gospel books (such as the Book of Kells), and rich altar plate (such as the Ardagh Chalice) had been produced to serve a Church which invested very little in built fabric. Contemporary Irish churches were small, ill-lit buildings, capable at best of holding no more than several dozen people at a time. Viking raids in the late eighth and early ninth centuries certainly disrupted the pattern of production at church sites in Ireland, but their impact was not fatal. In fact, the Viking contribution to medieval Irish civilization was ultimately very positive, he said.

The EU-funded 3D-Icons project aims to create highly accurate 3D models along with images, texts and videos of iconic and internationally important monuments and buildings across Europe and to provide access to this data on line. The pictures from Clones can be accessed at




Former NI customs post at Inishammon on Fermanagh/Monaghan border near Roslea.  Pic: Michael Fisher


Michael Fisher   Northern Standard  Thursday June 23rd  p.14


As voters go to the polls today in the six counties of Northern Ireland and Britain to decide on the future of the United Kingdom in the European Union, politicians from various parties in Monaghan and other border areas of the Republic have been urging a “Remain” vote. Minister for Regional Development Heather Humphreys spoke to farmers in Co. Down on Monday evening at an event in Castlewellan organised by SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie.

Minister Humphreys said facts have been drowned out by rhetoric during the referendum campaign. Unfounded allegations had been given the same status as evidence-based research. This had left many people feeling confused and unsure what to do.

As someone who lived on a farm just a couple of miles over the border, this was an issue that was very much close to her heart. Being part of the EU had brought many benefits to Northern Ireland. Britain and Ireland’s membership of the EU had been an important part of building better relationships and in underpinning the right of people in the North to be British, or Irish, or both. There had been hundreds of millions of pounds of PEACE funding. Access to the single market helped to create jobs.

The Minister said she believed, as did her government colleagues in Dublin, that the best interests of this island, north and south, were best served by having the United Kingdom at the heart of Europe – leading, not leaving. She did not underestimate the challenges a ‘leave’ vote could create. This was especially true from a trade perspective, especially for the Irish agri-food sector.

She was very conscious that along the border there had been a very complex set of relationships along the agri-food value chain. Much of the milk produced in the North was processed in the South. Cattle wee fattened in different farms on either side of the border before being slaughtered on one side or the other.

The Ulster Farmers Union had said that no compelling argument had been made that Northern Ireland agriculture would be better off outside the EU. Why risk changing a formula which, whilst imperfect, was delivering for farmers today? Rural communities were the lifeblood of Ulster and had been supported by the EU. Projects like the Rural Community Network or the ARC project in Fermanagh had helped to keep rural communities alive. They helped us take advantage of the stability and certainty which the Good Friday Agreement gave Northern Ireland.

The Minister continued: “Leaving the EU would leave Northern Ireland open to many risks. The Open University economist Leslie Budd concluded that leaving the EU could cost the Northern Ireland economy almost £1bn a year. He said that transaction costs for cross border trade could rise significantly and act as a disincentive to economic co-operation.

The reality would be that, under certain exit conditions, the UK would have the freedom to move away from EU policy. Given the degree of interconnectivity between agriculture and agri-business North and South, any differences would add to the cost and complexity of farming.

Under most scenarios, a British exit from the EU would see the return of some sort of border controls, customs or administrative procedures that would replace the current free movement of goods. One would have to anticipate a higher level of administrative controls than currently exists, with possibly a “hard” border and/or a Border Inspection Post. This was stated by Prime Minister David Cameron last week.

“Inevitably any restoration of the border, even a customs border, would add to farmers’ administrative costs. We all remember the old border in Newry. The queues of trucks. Who wants to go back to that?”, she said. “It is in your interest that the UK, and in particular Northern Ireland, remains in the EU”, she told the farmers.


Monaghan/Fermanagh border outside Roslea. Pic: Michael Fisher


Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Niamh Smyth said voters in the North and across the UK had the chance to further relations North and South of the border if they voted to remain in the European Union.  The Brexit referendum was one of the most historic votes on this island as a vote to leave could have major economic, political and cultural consequences for the whole of Ireland.

Deputy Smyth commented, “The latest opinion polls show the Leave and Remain sides with very little between them.  While Fianna Fáil understands and respects the fact that this is a decision for Britain alone to decide, we cannot ignore the impact of a possible Brexit on Ireland.”

“A recent Standard and Poors report into Brexit stated that there would be “significant reverberations to the Irish economy should the UK leave the EU”.  Not only would a British exit from the EU have direct negative consequences for Ireland in the trade, travel, tourism, agri-food and energy sectors, there are also ramifications politically and culturally.”

“The political relationships North and South of the border, and between the British and Irish Governments, have been simplified by the fact that both are EU members, and this has allowed us to forge common bonds at EU level and to foster good working relationships.  A British exit from the EU would be an immense blow to our capacity to work together to secure lasting peace and stability in Northern Ireland.  The prospect of border controls cannot be ruled out and will most likely depend on the relationship that Britain establishes with the EU in the event of a Brexit.  This would deal a major blow to border counties like Cavan and Monaghan in terms of students and workers who can currently travel freely North and South.”

“Today marks a defining moment in Britain’s relationship with the EU, and it is imperative that those who are registered to vote do so.  Fianna Fáil believes a Brexit is not in the best interests of the island of Ireland and we would encourage people to vote to Remain in the EU”. Deputy Smyth said.


Traffic crossing the Monaghan/Fermanagh border outside Roslea.  Pic: Michael Fisher


Sinn Féin MLA and National Chairperson Declan Kearney also urged people to vote Remain in the EU referendum. Mr Kearney said: “It is very clear that a Brexit will be bad for the economy on the island, bad for farmers, bad for the environment, bad for workers and communities, bad for young people, and bad for Irish unity.”

“Our people in the North of Ireland should not allow the most reactionary elements of the British Tory party to set our political agenda or Ireland’s economic future and to drag us out of Europe. Brexit has the potential to entrench partition. We are committed to ending partition and don’t want to see the return of border checkpoints between north and south.”

“We have been very critical of the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU but the only way to change that is from within. We want to change the EU and build a progressive, prosperous and social Europe, which respects sovereignty. Sinn Féin is calling on everyone to Put Ireland First and vote Remain in the referendum”, Mr Kearney concluded.


Meanwhile the British Home Secretary Theresa May has warned of border controls in the event of a Brexit. She was speaking during a visit to Northern Ireland to campaign for a remain vote in the referendum.

Theresa May said it was “inconceivable” that there would not be changes to current arrangements between the North and the Republic if the UK voted to leave the EU. Ms May said that, while the Common Travel Area between the two countries existed prior to the EU, if there was a Brexit some form of control would be inevitable.

“It is inconceivable that a vote for Brexit would not have a negative impact on the North/South Border, bringing cost and disruption to trade and to people’s lives,” she said. “Put simply, Northern Ireland outside the EU could not prevent free movement and continue with an open North/South Border.”

Ms May also claimed the economic argument for Northern Ireland to vote remain was compelling. TOM KELLY, the Stronger In chairman in the North, said the Remain campaign was concentrating on getting people out to vote today. “I am very confident that we will win the argument,” he said.


However the Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster is urging a ‘leave’ vote. She said she had listened to the arguments on all sides of the debate and after full and careful consideration had reached the conclusion that the right answer was to vote to leave the EU and to take back control of the UK’s future.

“Firstly there is the matter of the democratic principle. I am a devolutionist and believe decisions should be as close to the people as possible.  The European Union is pulling power and decision-making further away.  A return of powers would not simply flow to London but to Belfast too.”

“I believe in accountability. The decision-makers should have to answer to their voters.  The unelected European Commission plays the central and decisive role in EU policy and law making. European Court rulings can have far reaching consequences for us. The process of getting agreement between 28 countries and the use of qualified majority voting has given us a cumbersome process, where our interests can be and often are harmed.”

She continued: “Those who want to push towards a new superstate have already produced their plans and want to create more common institutions like an EU Army.  The golden opportunity to change was refused in the recent renegotiation. Secondly, we have the matter of costs and benefits. The UK as a whole has been a net contributor. The difference between what we pay in and get back has quadrupled in the last four years.”

“The UK has a huge trade deficit with the EU. Globally, the EU is falling behind.  The only continent with worse growth than continental Europe is Antartica.  The EU is not just holding us back but many other countries through its waste, bureaucracy and the straitjacket of the single currency.”

“Thirdly, I see the opportunities.  Many commentators have asked how as a former economy minister do I support a Vote Leave?  It was because of my experiences that I believe it is the right choice.  I have been across the world and I have seen the opportunities that are out there for the taking. I have seen Northern Ireland businesses take them up.  This fills me with confidence and the will to go after them.  I have also seen how power flowing down works best”, she said.

“This is why I am convinced that taking control of our future is the way forward for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. I must admit my resolve in this has grown and grown as the EU referendum campaign has developed.”

“Our constitutional future will be decided only by the ballot box. With devolution, people in Northern Ireland have more power over their elected representatives than ever before and we now have both a government and an opposition. This referendum holds true to that principle.”

“Finally, there is one threat to our peace process and one threat alone. Those paramilitary organisations who remain intent on killing are the threat to our peace. A threat the security forces deserve our praise and support for combating every day.

It is deeply offensive to present the people of Northern Ireland as ready to return to violence in the blink of an eye, especially over a democratic vote.  I know, I trust and I wholeheartedly believe we are better than that and those who have made such claims should know better as well.”

“I believe in the people of Northern Ireland. I believe in the businesses of Northern Ireland. I believe in what can they can achieve.  This is why I reject the absurd predictions and exaggerated threats. This is why I look to the future and the opportunities after the 23rd June. This is why I am asking you to Vote Leave.”

Polling stations in the North will remain open until 10pm this evening and it will be Friday when the outcome of the referendum is known.


Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher


Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Thursday June 4th Carrickmacross News p.35

They came in small groups to collect their redundancy payments. Over the course of several hours last Friday, 140 workers left the Bose plant in Carrickmacross, having clocked out on Thursday for the last time. The car park gates are locked and over the next week, preparations will be made by a Dublin company to auction the plant and machinery inside the building. Viewing begins next Thursday and the public auction will be on Friday 12th June, the final chapter in a 37-year history of production at the site.

Gates Locked at Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Gates Locked at Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

As they left the plant, the workers again pointed out that this had been a profitable operation for Bose, manufacturing high quality sound systems, 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.

Empty Car Park at Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Empty Car Park at Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys T.D. said she had been in contact with Jobs Minister Richard Bruton on a regular basis, most recently this week regarding the search for an alternative investor for the Bose facility. She said she had been informed that the Industrial Development Authority (responsible for attracting foreign direct investment to Ireland) was continuing to seek an alternative use for the Bose building and was highlighting the strengths of the border region as a location for inward investment.

Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

Minister Humphreys told the Northern Standard: “As the existing factory is not owned by Bose, the IDA is in discussions with the relevant parties on how the facility could be made available for a new investor. In response to the Bose announcement Minister Bruton established an interagency group to co-ordinate the response from the state in terms of awareness of entitlements and opportunities for the affected staff of the company and to pursue a replacement investor. This group is chaired by Enterprise Ireland and includes representatives from IDA Ireland, the Local Enterprise Office, the Education and Training Boards from Cavan/Monaghan and Louth/Meath, and the Department of Social Protection. I have been assured that the Department of Social Protection has been very active in terms of meeting the staff in relation to that Department’s services, and the Educational Training Board are pursuing relevant courses and training.”

Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

Minister Humphreys said the Bose announcement in January had been a huge blow to the area, and a terrible shock for staff. Her focus now was on helping to secure an alternative investor for the facility if possible. This process could take some time, but she remained hopeful that Carrickmacross could attract another employer into the town. She added: “As well as continuing to seek a new investor for the facility, it is important that all possible training and up-skilling opportunities are made available to the Bose workers. Job opportunities in Cavan and Monaghan have improved considerably in the last year or so; the number of people on the Live Register across the two counties has dropped by an average of 25% and in total 14,300 additional people are back at work in the border area since the launch of the Action Plan for Jobs in 2012. I will continue to work with Minister Bruton to seek alternative employment options for all workers affected by the Bose closure.”

Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

As the BOSE plant closed its doors for the last time on Friday, Carrickmacross-based Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said the closure of the plant was devastating for the local economy and community who had been let down by the government. The MEP said:

“Today is a sad day for the staff, their families and the wider community of Carrickmacross as we witness the closure of long- standing employer BOSE and the loss of 140 full time jobs in the area. I wish to extend my solidarity, and that of my party colleagues, to the workers and their families on what I am sure must be a difficult day for them personally.”

Empty Car Park at Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Empty Car Park at Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

“I believe that the closure today is indicative of the lack of an effective regional jobs plan by this government.  Since the closure announcement in January I have been in correspondence with Minister Richard Bruton and with the IDA. I held a meeting with IDA Chief Executive Martin Shanahan in his office where I urged that all possible opportunities to identify an alternative employer for the BOSE site to explored. I regret to say that I do not believe that the government or its agencies have done enough to ensure that either the plant remained open or that alternative employment could be secured for the premises.”

Matt Carthy said people in Carrickmacross and South Monaghan felt very let down by the government agencies who had not delivered for the area and he was hugely disappointed on their behalf. He concluded:

“We must redouble our efforts to minimise the impact of this closure on our community and local economy and I am calling on local government representatives to put pressure on their colleagues to ensure that Carrickmacross is not left behind. I have again written to Minister Richard Bruton requesting real action on this front and I will continue to work with my party colleagues, including Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, on this matter.”

Gates Locked at Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Gates Locked at Former Bose Plant, Carrickmacross Photo: © Michael Fisher

Monaghan County Councillor Colm Carthy is a former Bose employee. The Sinn Féin representative said the closure of the Bose plant was the end of an era. Not only was it a huge blow for the town, it was a huge blow to the whole of South Monaghan and beyond. Councillor Carthy told the Northern Standard:

“The staff of this facility are a family and they are devastated to have lost their jobs. We need to push now for a replacement company to come in to the facility as soon as possible. We have already seen the lack of respect local councillors have been shown by central government in their dealings with all the relevant bodies who are working on getting replacement jobs into the area. This cannot be allowed to continue. We, as a council, will continue to push the government to do all in their power, not only to utilise the facility that is already in place but, more importantly, to utilise the talented workforce that has been left behind.”


Heather Humphreys TD at Blayney Blades celebration in Castleblayney  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Heather Humphreys TD at Blayney Blades celebration in Castleblayney Photo: © Michael Fisher


Michael Fisher

It’s a busy week for local Fine Gael T.D. and Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys. When this reporter met her in Castleblayney on Monday morning, she had been on the road since 8.30am, leaving her home in Aghabog to start work at her constituency office in Monaghan by 9am. Her first public engagement was at the Íontas Centre, where she was the guest speaker at an event organised by Blayney Blades to celebrate International Women’s Day. In her speech she mentioned how important an influence her mother Emily had been and how two of her secondary school teachers had encouraged her to enter politics. She stayed for two hours, networking with a large group of women and passing on the welcome news that funding a network of 17 women’s groups throughout the country had been secured. Instead of taking lunch at the Centre, the Minister stayed in Castleblayney to meet a constituent before returning to her office in Monaghan around 1:45pm. She just had time for a small snack from a nearby café before heading off to Beech Hill College in Monaghan, where a woodwork room had been refurbished and equipment upgraded with the aid of a grant. She took the opportunity to speak to the principal and teachers as well as some of the students. After an hour at the College she returned once again to the Mall Road office at 3:30pm to carry out constituency work for three hours. By 7pm she was back home, taking the opportunity to do some packing for an official trip she is making to England this week. She is flying to London on Wednesday night and will be the main guest at a number of functions over the St Patrick’s weekend. On Friday evening the Irish ambassador Dan Mulhall hosts a reception at the Irish embassy and there will be a formal dinner to attend on Saturday night. On Sunday the Minister will join fellow Monaghan native Barry McGuigan at the head of the St Patrick’s Day parade in the British capital.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys TD at Magheracloone Fine Gael Branch AGM  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys TD at Magheracloone Fine Gael Branch AGM Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Minister’s third public engagement on Monday was at Magheracloone Community centre (near Carrickmacross), where she attended the AGM of the local Fine Gael branch. It was the first time in recent memory that a government Minister had been present. Over a welcome cup of tea at the end of the meeting, Heather Humphreys explained that the following day (Tuesday) her diary would be taken up with a Cabinet meeting in the afternoon and a meeting of the 1916 Commemoration committee (which is one of her responsibilities) that evening. Wednesday would see her answering questions in the Dáil.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys TD at Blayney Blades congratulates their Woman of the Year 2015 Sr Catherine Brennan  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys TD at Blayney Blades congratulates their Woman of the Year 2015 Sr Catherine Brennan Photo: © Michael Fisher

So after putting in a fourteen hour shift on Monday, it was time (10:30pm) for the Minister to return home. She told me she normally tried to keep Sundays free as a family day, a time she could enjoy with her husband Eric and their two daughters. She certainly has a busy schedule.


Tonight (Thursday) the Minister is in London, attending an Enterprise Ireland St Patrick’s Day reception at Trinity House (the body responsible for lighthouses). It is an opportunity to network with business people, many of them Irish, and to encourage investment in Ireland. This photo was posted on her twitter account @HHumphreysFG:

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys TD at Enterprise Ireland reception in London  Photo: @HHumphreysFG

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys TD at Enterprise Ireland reception in London Photo: @HHumphreysFG



Northern Standard Thursday 12th March 2015 p.35

Blayney Blades Celebrate 20 Years and International Women’s Day

By Michael Fisher

The spirit of the late Sr Celine McArdle was very much present as the Blayney Blades women’s group in Castleblayney celebrated their twentieth anniversary and International Women’s Day with a special event at the Íontas Centre. No doubt she was smiling down on the assembled group of around sixty women, particularly when the Arts Minister, Heather Humphreys T.D., announced that funding to allow the continuation of the various courses and services had been secured. Olive Bolger, Co-ordinator at the centre, said she imagined Sr Celine, who had a love of nature and died in 2013 aged, appeared every now and then in the form of a robin. Or even perhaps a squirrel, as a poem written by Sr Celine and read by her friend Nan Duffy reminded the audience:-

THE SQUIRREL  By Sr Celine McArdle (1988)  

Today I saw a squirrel, a-skip from tree to tree,

Red nimble little body, tail bushy as could be.

He nibbled here; he nibbled there, and then sat upon his rump,

To examine his collection, then scamper a tree stump.

He hid behind the swelling, upon the oldest tree.

And somehow as I looked at him, he reminded me of me!

A-scurrying through the branches of each day’s busy tree.

Picking up the husks and shells of dreams that used to be,

Dreams of stored up treasure, thirty years from when

I gave my all in ’59 – what happened to it then??

Or is there wealth I cannot see, stored up by God above

The fruit of all my scurrying, transformed by His faithful love?

Today, just like the squirrel, I sit upon my rump

And gather up the nourishment I’ll be needing in the slump.

When days are dark and dreary and my soul’s as dry as dust,

When nothing seems to touch my heart, and my knees won’t bend with rust.

Then may I find the store house, in some crevice of life’s tree,

And know again the certainty of God’s love for squirrels and me.

Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D., said there was no better place to mark International Women’s Day than at Blayney Blades. This day is all about empowerment and positive action and this year’s theme is ‘make it happen’, she said.

The Minister said she had taken part in a Fine Gael event last week to acknowledge women who ‘make it happen’ in their local area. She went on: “We all know inspirational women in our own walks of life. I have no doubt that you could all easily name a woman who has inspired you, who has encouraged and supported you to become who you are today. This room is full of inspirational women. Women who are making it happen for other women in Castleblayney”.

She said the Blades had been making it happen for the last two decades. Since the group was set up in 1995, it had been empowering, encouraging and enabling women and their families in the Castleblayney area, so that they could realise their full potential and play an active role in this community.

The Minister described the range of services provided by Blayney Blades as very impressive; from education and training, counselling, support initiatives for young people and targeted programmes for new communities in this area. “I take my hat off to you”, she said.

Referring to the difficulties over grant aid in previous years, which made it difficult at times to keep the group going, she said she was very pleased to announce that concerns relating to the funding for the National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks, of which Blayney Blades is a member, had been addressed.

Funding will now be provided by the Department of Justice, safeguarding the future of Blayney Blades and the Dochas Drop-in Centre for Women in Monaghan, and fifteen other projects across the country. The Minister said she had huge respect and appreciation for the work of the NCCWN, particularly the support the network provided to disadvantaged women, so she was very glad that the funding issue had been resolved.

She told the group that the work of Blayney Blades and NCCWN could be summed up in one word: empowerment. A big word, but it could also be a series of small things. A helping hand; a word of encouragement; or a nudge in the right direction. She said that step by step, week upon week and year after year, the Blades had been empowering women and helping them to make a difference in their own lives and in other people’s lives since 1995. You have been making this a better community, she added.

The Minister said her mother Emily had been a great inspiration for her. On the family farm at Drum there was no job a woman could not do. She had taught me from an early age how to drive a tractor and to milk the cows, she said.

She also spoke about the very important influence that two women had on her during her formative years. Both were teachers at St Aidan’s comprehensive school in Cootehill. One was Geraldine O’Brien, her economics teacher, who encouraged students to stand up for what they believed in. The other was Joan Hannon, who taught English and debating. She encouraged students to get out there and make their point known. Both women had sown the seeds for her to enter politics, she said.

Referring to the overall picture, Minister Humphreys said women had made great strides in Irish public life over the last two years. She herself was proud to be one four women sitting around the Cabinet table. Women occupied the roles of Tanaiste, Garda Commissioner, Chief Justice, Arrorney General, Minister for Justice, Education Minister and…of course….Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht! But we still have barriers to break down, she said.

“You will be aware that next year, we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of this republic. I am leading the Government’s plans for Ireland 2016 – which will commemorate the 1916 Rising – the event which led to the foundation of this State.  I want the role of women in the Rising to be fully recognised.

The Proclamation was a visionary document which specifically mentioned the men AND women of Ireland, at a time when women didn’t even have the vote. Women like Constance Markievicz were complete trail blazers. I want us to recognise these women, to remember the bravery of Cumann na mBan, but also to ask ourselves how, in the following 100 years, women were forced into the background. In some cases, they were written out of history”, she said.

She went on: “We now have a situation where we have to introduce gender quotas to increase the number of women in politics. I hope you will join me as we remember the men AND women who brought about the foundation of this State. After all, a true Republic is a country that values all of its citizens equally”. The Minister concluded by wishing everyone involved in the group all the very best for the next twenty years.

Afterwards in a question and answer session, the Minister spoke about the need for the gender quota and said it was very important that women should be at the decision-making table in government. She believed women needed to get involved in politics and she urged some of them to come forward so they could highlight what needed to be changed.

Last year the Blayney Blades along with other women’s community development groups began a campaign to have funding for their projects ring-fenced. Following the announcement by the Minister, they said they were delighted that the campaign had been successful. It would now give the NCCWN long-term core funding, thus offering continuity to projects. The Blades thanked all those who had supported their campaign and the local representatives who had supported them. They said it was very heartening and affirming to have the work of the NCCWN and Blayney Blades acknowledged and valued.

In her speech, Chairperson Noeline O’Neill said the occasion was tinged with sadness as Sr Celine McArdle was not present to celebrate with them. The Sister of Mercy had the foresight and vision to bring us to where we are today, she said. In the early days of the Blayney Blades, she remembered someone asking them if their group made razor blades! They had grown and developed over the years and she outlined the various stages achieved since the first meeting at the Parish Centre in Castleblayney on January 16th 2005. She outlined some of the courses hey had successfully run and now in 2015 they were about to embark on a new journey. She thanked the staff including the four support workers for their dedication despite the uncertainty over funding last year.

Co-ordinator Olive Bolger, a long-serving member of the group, said Sr Celine’s vision and dream for the group had at first seemed impossible to realise. They had made a trip to see some other centres in Cavan and Tipperary and then received a small bit of funding to initiate the project. She referred to the establishment of a community crèche, the first in the county, which had been set up in a house at Henry Street in Castleblayney. Then they realised other services were needed such as a homework club for older children. She explained how the concept of the Íontas Centre had emerged from its original plan as a small resource centre and how it had been established while Sr Celine was still in good health.

Olive then called on Rose Laverty from Dundalk to light candles in memory of Sr Celione and two former members of the Board of Management who had died, Carmel Redmond and Olivia Rice McCarron.

Development Worker Lorraine Cunningham said the past few months had been very trying because of the uncertainty over finance. She thanked the 43 TDs and Ministers who had attended their lobby at Leinster House a few months ago and had helped to save their funding. She praised Olive Bolger for dedicating her life to making the support group function effectively. The Blades had a very supportive Board of Management and unlike statutory agencies, the work they carried out did not stop at 5pm. She presented Olive with a piece of jewellery in recognition of her long service.

The guest speaker was a St Louis nun based in Dublin, Sr Catherine Brennan. She is a former teacher, who has run courses mainly for women’s groups in Inniskeen, Dundalk, Castleblayney and Dublin. She spoke about the inner journey people must make to understand themselves and the explore their potential. In changing ourselves, change happens all around us, she told the audience.

Following her talk, the Blayney Blades presented Sr Catherine with their award for Woman of the Year 2015. The citation said that Catherine was no stranger to Blayney Blades and had been one of the first tutors to work with the group. She trained in Ireland and England in Adult Education. She delivered the NUI Maynooth Certificate Course in Counselling, which some of our members received. Catherine delivered Personal Development courses, Ennegram, Myers Briggs and Parenting Programmes. Catherine was much more than a tutor. She became a great friend and supporter to all Blades and participants from all over the county and beyond. Catherine has a great love for the environment and encourages us all to become aware of the necessity to protect it. We have all benefitted from her expertise.






Northern Standard  Thursday 28th January 2015   Story by Michael Fisher  © Northern Standard

Northern Standard Thursday 28th January 2015 Story by Michael Fisher © Northern Standard

Having contributed the lead story in today’s Northern Standard Thursday 29th January about the suddenly announced the closure of the Bose factory, I also filled three pages with Carrickmacross News.


I also contributed two stories featuring Bishop MacDaid of Clogher.



I enjoyed dipping into the archives to be shown the copy of the paper in October 1978 in which the official opening of the Bose factory was featured. It was carried out by my former Latin teacher (1967-69) the late John Wilson TD, then Minister for Education. The plant was blessed by Archdeacon Morris of Carrickmacross. Two TDs at the time Dr Rory O’ Hanlon and Jimmy Leonard are now retired.

The Minister for Education, Mr. John Wilson, T.D., cuts the tape to officially open the new Bose factory at Carrickmacross. Pictured along with top management are Monsignor Morris, Archdeacon, Carrickmacross (third from left) and Mr. Stanley. A. Hendryx, Managing Director (extreme right)

The Minister for Education, Mr. John Wilson, T.D., cuts the tape to officially open the new Bose factory at Carrickmacross. Pictured along with top management are Monsignor Morris, Archdeacon, Carrickmacross (third from left) and Mr. Stanley. A. Hendryx, Managing Director (extreme right)  Photo: © Northern Standard


The 150 guests were taken on a tour of the factory, “prior to a sumptuous reception and luncheon at Hotel Nuremore, Carrickmacross”.

A section of the crowd who attended the official opening of the new Bose Ireland factory at Carrickmacross last Friday. Included in the picture are Dr. Rory O'Hanlon, T.D.; Deputy J. Leonard, T.D.; Mr. T.J. Finlay, Chairman of Carrickmacross U.D.C., and Mr. P. McEneaney, M.C.C., Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Northern Standard

A section of the crowd who attended the official opening of the new Bose Ireland factory at Carrickmacross last Friday. Included in the picture are Dr. Rory O’Hanlon, T.D.; Deputy J. Leonard, T.D.; Mr. T.J. Finlay, Chairman of Carrickmacross U.D.C., and Mr. P. McEneaney, M.C.C., Carrickmacross   Photo: © Northern Standard