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Hello again from Ireland that is under siege from relentless Atlantic storms at the moment. The devastation caused by the unusual winds and rain has to be seen to be believed.
This month we have a short story, a biography of an Irish President and two places you simply must visit when in Ireland!
Until next time,
'QUIET MAN' COTTAGES VERY AFFORDABLE IN IRELAND
One of the effects of the dramatic collapse in property prices in Ireland is that there are bargains to be had. Cottages in rural locations away from the larger urban centres are in good supply and can be picked at auctions where the minimum reserves are often as low as 25,000 euro (approx US$34,000).
A quick search of Ireland's leading property websites reveals an abundance of cheap sites, derelict cottages, houses needing refurbishment and actual gems that you can move into today. If you have ever dreamed of living the 'The Quiet Man' lifestyle then there has never been a better chance to snap up a bargain.
At Ballinlough in County Roscommon a cottage can be yours for 25,000 euro. An 'Ideal Project For The DIY Enthusiast' the sales literature says!
A derelict cottage on the wonderful Dingle Peninsula at Ballyferriter can be yours for 50,000 euro. Kerry in general and the Dingle Peninsula in particular are often regarded as among the most beautiful parts of Ireland.
The wonderfully named Honeysuckle Cottage in Galway is located at Williamstown, a matter of 20 miles or so from the village of Cong where John Wayne and Victor McLaglen slugged it out over the rolling fields. If DIY is not your thing then you can move into a very handsome cottage at nearby Oughterard in Galway for just under 90,000 euro, smack bang wallop in the heart of 'Quiet Man' territory.
IRELAND PUMMELED BY ATLANTIC STORMS
A series of storms that have blown in from the Atlantic Ocean have caused severe damage across Ireland with more on the way. Over 100,000 homes were left without electricity while the ESB (electricity supply board) struggled to deal with its biggest ever backlog of repairs.
Roofs were blown off structures in villages and towns by the incredible 170kph winds that continued for hours at a time. As many as 100,000 homes across Counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Clare were left without normal water supplies.
Nowlan Park, the Gaelic Football stadium in Kilkenny had asbestos roof tiles ripped from its structure and tossed and shattered onto the nearby road, causing a double hazard as the asbestos is regarded as a very dangerous substance to handle. The cost of the cleanup will likely run into tens of thousands for this onc incident alone. And this is a drama that is being replayed all across the country.
Property owners that have been repeatedly flooded over the last few years are afraid also that their insurance cover will be ceased, with insurance companies running shy of offering cover in areas that are constantly threatened with overflowing water.
WAR ON OBESITY IN IRELAND STEPPED UP
The war on obesity in Ireland is being fought on many fronts. The 'Operation Transformation' show on Irish television has helped motivate tens of thousands of people to adopt a better lifestyle, eat healthier and get out and take some exercise. The reality show has certainly been a big success with the show organisers even appearing before a Government committee to promote their agenda.
Not so successful however has been the attempts of the Irish Government food watchdog 'Safefood', in convincing supermarkets to remove the display of sugary sweets at their checkout tills. Parents have often complained that it is next to impossible to prevent their kids grabbing at the bars of chocolate and packets of sweets while they queue up to pay for their groceries. The supermarkets realise that this is an easy profit game.
After contacting each of the five biggest supermarket chains in Ireland Safefood was disappointed to reveal that none had so far given any commitment to have the confectionery removed from the checkout area. Obviously the profits are too big to risk.
Marian Faughnan is chief specialist in nutrition for Safefood:
'This issue has been around for years, but it has never been more important to get action on it given the high rate of childhood obesity... this is a simple step that would really help'
A Safefood survey revealed that 73% believe that having junk food at checkouts is a contributory factor to obesity, and 29% said they'd be more likely to shop at stores where it is banned from the tills.
A recent World Health Organisation report has revealed that Ireland ranks third in the league table of overweight 11-year-olds in Europe. Third worst! Of 53 European countries the prevalence of overweight 11-year-olds in Ireland was 30%, behind only Greece at 33% and Portugal at 32%. The Netherlands at 13% and Switzerland at 11% fared much better.
The Regional director of the WHO for Europe is Zsuzsanna Jakab:
'Physical inactivity – coupled with a culture that promotes cheap, convenient foods high in fats, salt and sugars – is deadly. Our perception of what is normal has shifted: being overweight is now more common than unusual.'
GREAT CHANCE FOR IRELAND TO QUALIFY FOR FOOTBALL FINALS
The new managers of the Irish international football team have a great chance of qualifying for the European Championships in 2026. The finals are to be held in France with an expanded number of teams playing in the finals.
With France guaranteed qualification as host nation there are 23 places available for the other 3 teams. Previously only 16 teams could qualify but this has been increased to 24 meaning that several teams who finish in third place in their group will take their place at the finals.
In a group with Germany, Poland and Scotland the Irish team must surely fancy their chances of at least finishing in the top three if not second in a group that Germany are expected to top. Gibraltar and Georgia make up the other fixtures facing the boys in green.
New managers Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane must be looking forward to the action, particularly the games against Scotland which will surely prove to be the highlights of the campaign.
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HALF AN EGG!
by Marie O'Byrne
I have many fond memories of my childhood, growing up in Greystones, Co Wicklow in the 1960's. In Particular I remember the busy mornings sitting around the kitchen table with my eleven brothers and sisters while my dear mother served us all a hot meal to set us up for the long school day ahead.
Almost every morning she fed us porridge from the big metal pot that was sitting on top of the old range. She was up at the crack of dawn, well before any of us, and she always had the fire going and the kitchen warm and toasty for us all before we got up.
Having to feed thirteen people every day was no small task and it made a lot of sense to use just the one big pot so that there would be plenty for everyone. Our mother ran a tight ship and she always managed to have good, wholesome warm meals on the table for us all.
On some rare occasions however, we were lucky enough to have a change: we got a boiled egg and toast with our cup of tea for our breakfast. On those special days there was an unspoken rule that you cut your egg in half and handed over the top part of the egg to your sister or brother that was sitting next to you. This was due to the fact that there simply was not enough eggs to go around such a large family and it became an automatic action on our parts. I rarely remember having a whole egg all for myself.
My father in his wisdom often said that 'Half an egg is better than no egg!'
I vividly remember one St. Patrick's morning when we were all sitting around the table having our breakfast of boiled eggs. I automatically cut my egg in half and was about to pass the top part over to my sister Eileen. When my mother saw me, she gently raised her hand up in the air to stop me.
'Oh, No, Marie, today is St. Patrick's Day , it's a very special day for us all, and you get to have a whole egg all for yourself pet! Everyone get's a whole egg on St. Patrick's Day !'
She beamed with gratitude and a real sense of pride.
'Really! Ah, sure this is great Ma' said Eileen. We both giggled and laughed as we very happily tucked into the lovely gooey yoke!
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to those simpler days. Even tough materially speaking we were very poor, in other ways we were abundantly rich. We had loving caring parents, lot's of fun and laughter playing with each other, a big glowing fire and a warm cosy, cottage.
I wouldn't trade any of it, even though I only got half an egg.
Marie O'Byrne is author of three Irish Novels available from www.marieobyrne.com.
ERSKINE CHILDERS: FOURTH PRESIDENT OF IRELAND
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