Vol.1 No.2 January, 1999
(This page is archived as it initially appeared online - any broken links are subsequent to publication)
STORM CLOUDS LOOM OVER DONEGAL
December, 1998 was a stormy month in Donegal in every sense of the word.
On Wednesday the 2nd of December, a peaceful community protest in Kerrykeel over the erection of an Esat antennae in the village was violently suppressed by the Garda (Irish police) and according to John McAteer of the Tirconaill Tribune:
"A public meeting in Kerrykeel on Monday night stopped inches short of demanding the resignation of three garda officers following scenes in the village on last Wednesday which has projected the town into the national spotlight in the Esat phone masts controversy. There is serious public disquiet that the gardai acted outside of the law and the meeting heard a catalogue of complaints which alleged that protesters were kicked, abused, assaulted, elbowed in the mouth and dragged them along the street by officers who refused to identify themselves and one of the five men arrested in the incidents told the crowd that two of the garda officers involved said they were "007" and "Jack Straw".
Cllr. Anne O'Donnell who attended the meeting described the garda actions as "brutal" and confirmed that she had bone broken in a toe during the clashes....
"We are being treated like anarchists" says Kevin Kingston of the local enterprise group who adds that the image of the area has been destroyed by the gardai".
For those unfamiliar to the background to this controversy Esat is a telecommunications company who were granted a license by the Irish Government to provide mobile communications throughout Ireland. Part of their franchise includes providing communications systems for the Gardai (Irish police) so that the logical method of providing both is to erect antennae in the grounds of Garda stations.
Local people in Kerrykeel objected to the erection of the mast because they believe them to be dangerous to health.
I am sticking my neck out here but Donegal needs a decent communications system.
Anyone familiar with the infastructure of the County knows the perils of being involved in an accident in the County. As there is only one fully equipped hospital in Donegal, situated in Letterkenny, if you're in a car accident outside of the Letterkenny or Donegal Town area mobile communications do not work! If you happen to be on a quiet road there is no means of contacting an ambulance unless a passer-by comes along. All too often it is too late.
If mobile communications masts are dangerous then lets situate them away from villages and still have the benefits of mobile phones.
This is 1999 not 1899 and while it's good to be cautious it is not productive to object to new technology per se.
AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Let me back track - there is a long history of community protest in Donegal.
Ever since Maud Gonne witnessed the violent protests of Donegal people objecting to the evictions in the Land Wars of the late 1800's; the local initiatives of Pat Gallagher to establish workers' co-operatives in the County in the early part of this century; the successful protest to halt uranium strip mining in the 1970's; the election of Tomas Gildea last year as a Independent TD (member of Dáil Éireann/ Irish Parliament) for Donegal South West on the issue of stopping MMDS (microwave television transmitters) being erected in the County; on all these issues Donegal people have played a pro-active role in the political and ecological affairs of the County more so than in many parts of Ireland due to the fact that the County has been isolated politically and economically as a result of the partition of Ireland in 1921, making local government a very real issue for the people of Donegal.
Successive Irish Governments regarded the North-West as a hinterland of Derry (which it is) and hence it reminded them too much of the situation in the 6 Counties so that any economic progress in the County was as a direct result of people taking the initiative from within the County.
As a consequence to the national media coverage over the Esat mast in Kerrykeel Minister O'Donaghue made an assurance to Harry Blaney TD that there will be no mast erected in Kerrykeel " not now or in the future".
I make my comments on the need for modern communications in the County in the light of the fact that on the 7th of December, several days after the violent clashes with Garda in Kerrykeel, Fruit of the Loom, the County's largest employer, announced 800 jobs losses at their factories in Raphoe, Malin Head and Milford commencing early in 1999.
Donegal has twice the national average of unemployment in Ireland. As multinationals like Fruit of the Loom find cheaper production methods in the Middle and Far East, Donegal people can no longer rely on the textile industry to create employment in the County but there is a very real possibility of attracting new technology companies to the County which has an excellent 3rd level educational institute in the form of Regional Technical College if only the communications systems were adequate.
Not really it just means that local people in Donegal will have to continue to play an active role in the evolution of local government in the County, that the Donegal diaspora think about coming back to the County and bringing the skills and knowledge they have acquired back home for the good of the County, and that Donegal people everywhere take every opportunity they can to influence politicans and business alike as to the necessity of bringing employment to the County lest Donegal becomes merely a tourist's dream location rather than a vibrant active participant in the economic, political and social evolution of Ireland in the new millennium.
ST STEPHEN'S DAY STORMS
At midday on St. Stephen's Day violent hurricane force winds rolled in from the Atlantic and over 24 hours wrecked havoc in the County as throughout the West Coast of Ireland.
Winds of over 120 miles per hour brought down trees, electricity and telephone cables and caused millions of pounds worth of structural damage in the County. Electricity was not restored to many areas for several days and as a result water could not be pumped to many western parts of the County.
The following day it began to snow and people were forced to melt snow to get water and resort to the old Tilly lamps for light when darkness fell at 4.30 pm each day.
Telephones and electricity are still not restored in some parts of the County as I write a week following the storm.
CÁ BHFUIL AN GHAEILGE?
There have been a number of enquiries to Dún-na-nGall ar an Idirlíon on why the Site is not entirely bi-lingual. Well it not's because I do not want the Site in Irish - that's for sure, rather I am not fluent enough to write the Site in Irish as well as in English.
My own Irish will improve after a few weeks in Oideas Gael in Glencolmcille this year however, in the meantime, there have been generous offers to translate material in the Site into Irish for which I am very thankful.
So expect to see more Irish on the Site in the near future.
Remember this is still a non-commerical, independent Site funded entirely by myself and if I had the resources it would have been bi-lingual from the outset.
Blian nua faoi mhaise dhuit!
Patricia Sharkey, administrator, Dún-na-nGall ar an Idirlíon
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