Official unveiling and blessing of new Fire Engine for Milford Fire Brigade

Cathaoirleach Cllr. Gerry McMonagle, with Minister for State Mr. Joe McHugh TD, Senator Padraig MacLochlainn, Chief Executive Seamus Neely, elected members Cllr. Liam Blaney, Cllr. Ciaran Brogan, Cllr. Michael McBride and Cllr, Ian McGarvey, Chief Fire Officer Joseph McTaggart, Director of Service Garry Martin, Donegal Fire Service personnel including Station Officer Eugene McCafferty along with fire fighters and retired fire fighters from the Milford Fire Brigade and Fr. Rory Brady and Rev Jonathon McCollum at the unveiling and blessing of the new Fire Engine at Milford Fire Station on Friday morning.

The official unveiling and blessing of the new Fire Engine for Milford Fire Brigade took place this morning (Friday) at a special ceremony at Milford Fire Station.

The new ‘Class B’ Fire Engine, which cost of over €400,000, was officially handed over to Station Officer Eugene McCafferty by Cathaoirleach Cllr. Gerry McMonagle following a blessing by Fr. Rory Brady and Rev Jonathon McCollum.

Inside the new ‘Class B’ Fire Engine which boasts the very latest in fire-fighting technology including a compressed air foam system,

This new Fire Engine will now replace the old 1995 Volvo fire engine that was previously based at Milford Fire Station and which was one of the oldest front-line fire engines in the fleet.

The new Fire Engine boasts the very latest in fire-fighting technology including a compressed air foam system, more commonly referred to as a CAFS, which is very effective for fighting fires and protecting properties where water supplies are limited. It also incorporates the very latest in high visibility markings and emergency lighting to ensure the safety of the public when travelling to and attending at emergency incidents.

Cathaoirleach Cllr. Gerry McMonagle speaking at the event.

Speaking at the ceremony, Cllr McMonagle said “recent tragic events in Donegal and further afield serve to highlight the importance to the emergency services and I believe that it is very important that our fire-fighters have the very best of Personal Protective Equipment, specialist fire-fighting equipment and fire engines in order for them to carry out their role in the most effective and safest manner possible so that they can give people in distress the most help possible in the shortest space of time”.

Chief Fire Officer Joseph McTaggart with Milford Fire Station Officer Eugene McCafferty and retired Fire Station Officer Thomas Friel with retired fire fighters John Peoples and Pat Ferry at the special event.

According to Chief Fire Officer, Joseph McTaggart the new fire engine will enhance the ability of Milford Fire Brigade to deliver the operational fire service to the community it serves and has made a very positive impact on the average age of the overall fire brigade fleet within the Donegal Fire Service.

The new fire engine is based on the very successful Scania P320 chassis with integrated crew cab, providing seating for up to eight fire-fighters. It comes with an integrated water tank coupled with an on-board Godiva Prima main pump which is capable of pumping out 3,000l of water per minute at an average pressure of 10 bar.

It has an operational life span of approximately 20 years and it is anticipated that it will respond to approximately 60 calls per annum in the Milford Fire Station Ground Area, with these calls varying from small chimney fires up to the more serious building fires and road traffic collisions.

Minister of State Joe McHugh TD speaking at the event.

Minister for State Mr. Joe McHugh TD, Garry Martin Director of Service with Donegal County Council and Station Officer Eugene McCafferty also spoke at this morning’s ceremony which was attended by Cllr. Liam Blaney, Cllr. Ciaran Brogan, Cllr. Michael McBride and Cllr, Ian McGarvey, Senator Padraig MacLochlainn, Chief Executive Seamus Neely, Chief Fire Officer Joseph McTaggart, as well as fire service personnel from Donegal Fire Service including fighters and retired fire fighters from the Milford Fire Brigade.

Station Officer Eugene McCafferty with the Milford Fire Brigade

A number of Donegal Fire Service personnel were also presented with their 10 Year Long Service Awards including Shane McGettigan, Manus O’Donnell, Declan Williams, Noel Gillespie and Eugene McCafferty.

Fire Fighter Shane McGettigan receiving his 10 Year Long Service Award from Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry McMonagle

Fire Fighter Manus O’Donnell receiving his 10 Year Long Service Award from Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry McMonagle

Fire Fighter Declan Williams receiving his 10 Year Long Service Award from Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry McMonagle

Substation Officer Noel Gillespie receiving his 10 Year Long Service Award from Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry McMonagle

Station Officer Eugene McCafferty receiving his 10 Year Long Service Award from Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry McMonagle

 

Ancient bell and shrine completes historic return next Monday

St. Conall's Bell and Shrine

St. Conall’s Bell and Shrine

It’s a journey that began almost 1500

years ago and next Monday the ancient St Conall’s Bell and Shrine complete the final leg as they make their way back to their place of origin, west Donegal.

But these are no ordinary artefacts and this is no ordinary occasion.

The bell and shrine have been engraved in the folklore and tradition of a coastal community that has preserved not only memory but the very essence of these holy treasures.

It was unveiled to the public by Minister Joe McHugh on June 19, this itself an historic occasion but behind the scenes the work to get to this stage had been going on for almost two years.

Inishkeel Island off Portnoo is acknowledged as the relics original starting point. Access to it on foot is restricted to certain tides and weather conditions but for centuries it has been a place of pilgrimage as a result of its historical connections with St Conall.

He founded a monastery there and in the process brought Christianity and learning to the people of south-west Donegal and beyond. It was a powerful symbol in a new era for this area in particular

The bell in question was used to rally the faithful to mass and various other ceremonies. The same could be said of its much anticipated arrival at the nearby Dolmen Centre next Monday, July 13.

Of course this bell and shrine has been on a long journey to get back to this point. It was held firstly by the abbots on the island, improved upon with the addition of a bronze mount and patterns before it was encased in a beautiful ornate gold, sliver and crystal shrine

It next moved into the care of the O’Breslin Clan who protected it for hundreds of years before they fell on hard times. The relics were purchased by Major Nesbitt of Woodhill House, Ardara but on the night he died, January 3, 1845 it is reported that they went missing.

It is believed they made their way across to England where they passed through the hands of a number of collectors before they were purchased by Augustus Franks in 1889, who recognising their historical significance, presented them to the British Museum in London

Over the years enquires came from the county about the artefacts, particularly around St Conall’s Day on May 2, the opening of the pilgrimage season. Committees were formed, representations were made but there was no indication the artefacts would ever appear again in Donegal.

Then a number of years ago a new committee, spearheaded by the late Malachy Mahon and his wife Brenda, began a process of liaising with the British Museum, and then Donegal County Museum for approximately 18 months, to see if the matter could be revisited.

Judith McCarthy with Helen Meehan and Una McGarrigle from Donegal Historial Society and Brenda Mahon from the local St. Conall's Bell and Shrine Committee

Judith McCarthy with Helen Meehan and Una McGarrigle from Donegal Historial Society and Brenda Mahon from the local St. Conall’s Bell and Shrine Committee

Donegal County Museum curator, Judith McCarthy met the couple and between them the various challenges in bringing these priceless items to the county were overcome.

“The British Museum previously had the bell and shrine in an exhibition entitled ‘The Treasurers of Heaven’ and on its website the items are listed as one of the highlights of their collection,” she explained.

The curator, who just marked her 21st year at the Letterkenny facility last weekend, added while the British Museum was also keen to facilitate items such as these returning to their place of origin this also meant a host of stringent conditions and a regime of protocols that they hadn’t had to deal with up to this.

“These included fixing a timetable that would suit all parties, copious amounts of paperwork and reports covering everything from security, fine art couriers, environmental conditions and display facilities to name but a few and if these initial hurdles don’t pass the scrutiny of the British Museum’s curators, conservators and security advisors they don’t leave.”

Fortunately Donegal County Museum can boast the highest standards. It has achieved accreditation in the Museum Standards Programme of Ireland and it’s also a designated museum under the National Cultural Institutions Act.

“All of the environmental and security conditions we have to fulfil anyway and that requires training and expertise within our ranks and we’re funded by our local authority to have that,” she said.

The Dolmen Centre in Kilclooney

The Dolmen Centre in Kilclooney

Next Monday’s one day display at the Dolmen Centre in Kilclooney also had to fulfil certain criteria which, according to Judith, she was able to complete with the assistance of the local committee who were organising the event there.

“In order for the bell and shrine to go to the Dolmen Centre in Kilclooney we had to comply with similar conditions on the understanding it was only going to be for one day but thanks to all parties working together, we were able to ensure it could happen.

“Taking artefacts like these outside the confines of the museum is a big deal for all concerned,” she added.

The curator acknowledged the assistance such an event received thanks to the generous donation from Tim Kelly of Kelly Communications as well as the financial outlay from Donegal County Council to support the overall project.

“All of this has happened as a result of the local committee, the British Museum and the Donegal County Council playing a role. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that the public might not realise and this was a massive undertaking for all concerned. We had to loan the Dolmen Centre the proper display case and ensure it meets all the required criteria set out by the British Museum.

“I have to visit the facility and ensure the display and the security in place meets their requirements too.”

But all the hard work over such a long period of time has been worthwhile, said Judith.

“It’s been a great learning curve for me and staff at the museum, Assistant Curator, Caroline Carr, Jacqueline Abbas and Mervyn Whyte. The visitors have been overwhelmed too by the fact they can see such historic artefacts. It’s certainly increased visitor numbers and that in turn should also help bring people back here again in the future.

“I am very pleased to have been able to facilitate these items coming back to Donegal and that people have had the opportunity to see objects that they might never had an opportunity to see,” she said.

St Conall’s Bell and Shrine will be available for public viewing in Letterkenny until 4pm this coming Saturday, July 11.

The artefacts will then be going on display at the Dolmen Centre in Kilclooney between 10.30am and 5pm next Monday, July 13 and then going straight back to the museum in Letterkenny before leaving the following morning for their journey back to the British Museum and bring to an end what could only be described as an historic occasion for everyone connected with this event.

 

 

 

 

 

Heritage Week – a celebration of our history, culture and nature

A number of local events are being planned in Donegal this month as we get ready for National Heritage Week. National Heritage Week is a celebration of our history, culture and nature, while promoting the need to preserve our local heritage.

Joseph Gallagher, Heritage Officer for Donegal County Council, talks about the need to celebrate our heritage and the huge selection of events going on for Heritage Week, which kicks off from August 23.

Launch of the County Donegal 'Heritage Week' Event Guide in the Donegal County Museum. From left to right Dinny McGinley T.D, Joseph Gallagher and Cllr. Ian Mc Garvey.

Launch of the County Donegal ‘Heritage Week’ Event Guide in the County Museum, Letterkenny. From left to right, Joseph Gallagher, Joe McHugh T.D. and Cllr. John Campbell.

“People should come along to ‘Heritage Week’ events to enjoy and celebrate our cultural, built and natural heritage!  There are almost 100 ‘Heritage Week’ events taking place in County Donegal including family open days, guided walks, built heritage open houses, heritage site visits, fieldtrips, exhibitions, illustrated presentations, photographic competitions, children’s activities, storytelling sessions, traditional music, craft fairs and traditional skills demonstrations, and much much more” said Joseph

There’s something for everyone!

“Whatever your age, interests and ability, there are heritage events to interest, inspire and engage you.  In fact, this year’s National Heritage Week theme of ‘Generations Exploring Heritage Together’ was chosen to coincide with the United Nations’ 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family.  National Heritage Week provides a wonderful platform for families to get together and to rediscover and engage with their local heritage.”

Our heritage contributes to our national recovery by engendering pride, reinforcing our sense of identity, supporting jobs, providing training and educational opportunities and attracting tourists.

Joseph explains what Heritage Week is and how the relatively small initiative grew into the huge festival it is today.

“Heritage Week is a week-long national festival to raise awareness of our cultural, built and natural heritage, to encourage its preservation and to foster pride in our shared heritage.

Heritage Week is very much a collaborative effort.  from The County Donegal Heritage Office, Donegal County Council and The Heritage Council provide advice, information, coordination and support to people who are organising events.  The County Donegal ‘Heritage Week’ Event Guide produced by the County Donegal Heritage Office and the countrywide guide produced by The Heritage Council helps to publicise the events taking place around the county and across the country.  Heritage Week continues to go from strength to strength from 20 events taking place in County Donegal in 2004 rising to about 100 events in 2014.  Much of the success of Heritage Week lies with the many heritage organisations, museums, heritage centres, community groups and individuals who organise events every year.”

So why not come along to Heritage Week and discover a little bit of history that should be celebrated and rediscover the heritage on your doorstep.

This year, National Heritage Week takes place from Saturday, August 23 until Sunday, August 31.  National Heritage Week is coordinated by The Heritage Council and Local Authority Heritage Officers with support from the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht and Fáilte Ireland.

County Donegal Heritage Week 2014

County Donegal Heritage Week 2014

 

Facts about Heritage Week

  • National Heritage Week is part of European Heritage Days celebrated in over 40 countries across Europe.
  • There are over 1,600 events taking place for National Heritage Week across Ireland and most of them are free.
  • Over 400,000 people nationwide are expected to attend Heritage Week events this year.
  • Outside of Dublin and Cork, County Donegal has the most ‘Heritage Week’ events taking place of any county in the country.
  • Over 25 of the events taking place for ‘Heritage Week’ in County Donegal are organised by, or hosted by, Cultural Services of Donegal County Council.
  • In 2012, National Heritage Week created 10,000 bed nights worth over €1.4 million to local economies nationwide. 
  • Copies of the County Donegal ‘Heritage Week’ Event Guide are available free-of-charge from your local library, tourist office, public services centre, museum or heritage centre.
  • For information on events go to heritageweek.ie

Every Summer has a story – Start Your Childs with the Summer Reading Programme

Did you know that summer reading loss can average two months reading achievement each year, which some children may never regain. Summer reading programmes are themed reading schemes for children, which run in libraries across the county in July and August. Their aim is to create and sustain a love of reading and prevent loss of reading skills during the summer months, which can help prevent that dip in your child’s reading.

Every child is a reader; this is the message from Donegal County Council as Senior Executive Librarian with Donegal County Council Library Service Donna Quinn talks about how beneficial the summer reading programme is and how everything changes when we read.

Donna Quinn

Donna Quinn

“The summer reading programme is really beneficial to children as it keeps their brain active over the summer months and sparks a creative and imaginative flare that they wouldn’t have if they didn’t read,” says Donna

“We have been running summer reading programmes for over 15 years and they have evolved over the years.  The summer reading programme is part of the Library Services’ overall literacy programme. While librarians don’t actually teach the skill of reading, libraries have an essential role in providing access to books and in designing activities that help people enjoy reading and develop their reading skills.

“Children are encouraged to read as many books as they can over the summer holidays. Their names are then placed on the themed display in the library; this could be a tree with leaves, a surf board or a map of the area. At the end of the summer all the children receive a certificate of participation. The summer reading programme could be a stepping stone for children to a world of fun, frolics and festive activities awaiting them in their local library,” And it’s all free!

‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn the more places you will go’ – Dr Seuss

Donna highlights how important it is for parents to play a key role in keeping their children reading over the summer months and how it’s never to late to learn how to read.

Summer Reading activity

Summer Reading activity

“Family literacy services play a major role in our literacy services. The biggest influence on whether a child becomes an enthusiastic reader is the attitude of parents. Our programmes promote the importance of reading in the family unit and the educational benefits of books. We work with a range of agencies including the HSE and ETB on family literacy programmes. Its never to late to start reading, even for parents who aren’t confident readers, you will benefit from it and most of all so will your child, because reading is a life skill.”

So if you are not one of the current members of the Library Service in Donegal why not call into your local library and gain a world of knowledge in knowing that if you can read, you can go anywhere. So pick up a book and let your imagination run wild.

 

Summer reading facts

  • 1,618 children took part in summer reading programmes in libraries in Donegal last year and we hope to surpass that number in 2014.
  • 37, 482 children items were borrowed during July and August last year.
  • Donegal County Council Library Service does not charge for overdue children’s books.
  • If children see parents reading they will copy, so lead with example.
  • Children are never too young to be introduced to books. We have a range of board books suitable for infants. By age 5 a child has developed approximately 70% of their vocabulary. Therefore the more a child reads the more words they will have by the age of 5.
  • The library service now offers much more than a room full of books for children, we have computers with internet access, DVDs and CDs and talking books, book clubs, rhyme times, competitions, craft activities. Libraries today are more about what they do rather than what they house.
  • For more info on Donegal Libraries visit www.donegallibrary.ie or follow us on Facebook or on Twitter @donegallibrary

 

Beach Littering – It’ll Cost you

Its not a pretty picture is it, you’re at your favourite beach, wiggling your toes in the sand and suddenly you cut your toe on a piece of glass. You look around and see the culprits everywhere as wrappers are strewn around the place and cigarette butts are discarded, while an innocent seagull has its head stuck in a beer six pack holder that has been abandoned on the sand, but why is there so much junk on the beach?

Rubbish at Rathmullan beach

Rubbish at Rossnowlagh beach

 

Donegal is blessed with many sandy beaches but they are in danger of being tarnished by constant littering, which begs the question how did all this rubbish get here and what can we do about it?

We spoke to Martin Burke who has been a litter warden in Donegal County Council for 14 years. He urges people to act responsibly and take there waste home with them when they visit the beach this summer.

“Leaving litter on the beach is very detrimental to our environment as the amount of litter and plastic that is left on the beach has to go somewhere and as soon as the tide comes in all that litter is washed out with it. This in turn effects many aspects of our environment and pollutes our water and can harm a lot of sea life, plastic can stay in our water for hundreds of years and who knows were it could end up.

“We had massive problems with this during the winter storm with litter that washed up all over our coastline. Who knows were the litter originally came from”, says Martin.

Martin states the easy solution to this problem and says its one that we can all do and get involved in.

Martin Burke, worker as litter warden in Donegal County Council for 14 years

Martin Burke, worker as litter warden in Donegal County Council for 14 years

 

“My message to people going to the beach this summer would be to take your litter home, and leave the beach as you find it. Anyone that is caught littering on the beach will receive an on the spot fine which is €150. Hopefully this will make people think before dropping that wrapper or paper is it worth a fine?

 

Get involved

It is estimated that over 100,000 marine mammals are killed by plastic litter every year around the world. Marine and beach littering is recognized as a growing pressure on costal environments, Martin talks about ways people can get involved in helping to keep our beaches clean.

“Donegal County Council supply bags and gloves to people who want to get involved in beach clean ups. There is a great selection of initiatives to help keep our beaches clean, such as the Spring/Summer clean ups and the popular two minute beach cleans, which saw people from all over taking two minutes to clean a part of the beach and take a picture of it. People don’t realise but it’s the small things like this that can really make a difference as even though we would like to clean all the rubbish it is impossible to get it all. Any help is appreciated and it’s rewarding to be involved in something that is sustaining our county. We could help put a stop to polluting our waters and land if we just simply take our rubbish home, I mean it’s not rocket science,” laughed Martin.

 Keep Clean Please

 

What are the dangers of littering on our beaches?

  • Litter that’s thrown on the beach gets washed into the water and can contaminate it.
  • Plastic, one of the main sources of litter on beaches, can be deadly. Wildlife can get tangled in plastic loops that hold cans together, causing them to become injured or even die.
  • Anyone caught littering will be fined an on the spot fine of €150
  • Last year over 2 tonnes of rubbish (yes you read that right) was removed from Rossnowlagh beach.
  • If you want to report littering or illegal dumping contact Donegal County Council online at www.donegalcoco.ie or call 074 91 53900

 

Keeping Road Safety on the Radar

Brian O´Donnell

Brian O´Donnell

 

2013 saw an increase in the number of people killed and injured on Donegal roads and this, according to Brian O’Donnell, Road Safety Officer with Donegal County Council, is why there is no room for complacency when it comes to road safety.

“I was appointed Road Safety Officer in January of this year and the key focus of my job is to increase road safety awareness in Donegal and to work with all the relevant authorities through the Donegal Road Safety Working Group to implement the Donegal Road Safety Action Plan.  This includes the Fire Service, HSE, An Garda Siochana, Donegal Youth Council, Donegal Youth Service and the Road Safety Authority.”

Brian believes promoting road safety is a necessity and talks about the Council’s role in a bid to ensure that road safety in Donegal doesn’t fall under the radar.

“We appeal to all road users to heed the safety appeals that are highlighted throughout the year. Working together to make the roads safe prevents the pain and suffering that accompanies every fatal and serious injury and road traffic collision. By making a conscious effort to make small changes to the way we behave we can make a huge difference.

“It’s the small things that mean the difference between life and death such as wearing a seatbelt on every trip no matter how short, by slowing down a little, by not driving while tired, not using your mobile phone while driving and by looking out for walkers, cyclists and motorcyclists. Of course these road users can help too by being seen and wearing bright, reflective clothing. Every agency involved in road safety needs to play their part, but critically everyone who uses the road has a role to play in keeping our roads safe.

“We have recently joined up with the Donegal GAA County Board and launched a road safety campaign for the football season.  We are encouraging all road users to change their behavior and make these changes part of their lives in the future, which we hope will save lives and reduce serious injuries on our roads” said Brian

The award winning Road Safe Road Show which takes place in mid October each year has proved to be a very effective way of reaching young people at secondary school level. This is a hard-hitting road safety message and aims to positively influence those drivers who are about to start out on what will hopefully be a long and safe motoring career.

Even though schools out for the summer the issue of road safety is not and Brian is urging parents and guardians to teach their children by example.

“Even though the school holidays have commenced the issue of road safety does not go on holiday. We all have to be vigilant.  Young children are very vulnerable, especially out and about near traffic. It is important to set a good example and to make smart choices about how you use the roads: strictly keep to the speed limits and reduce your speed, make sure you and your passengers are wearing seatbelts before you set off on a journey, no matter how short and never use your mobile phone for any purpose while driving.

Seatbelts Save lives

 

Road Safety facts

As of Friday 9th May, 63 lives have been lost on the roads in Ireland, compared to 66 on the same date last year.

Tragically seven children under the age of 16 years have lost their lives on Irish roads in the first four months of the year.

 

Road Safety tips

  • Drive at a safe speed and always observe the speed limit
  • Always wear your seatbelt and ensure your passengers do the same
  • NEVER drink and drive
  • Do not use a mobile phone while driving
  • Speed should be adjusted according to road conditions

 

Find out more about Road Safety at www.rsa.ie

 

Ethical and Shared Remembering Project

The Hands of History Project will be hosting a one-off seminar with input from the Ethical and Shared Remembering Project in the Central Library in Letterkenny on Thursday 4th September 2014 from 7.00 p.m. until 9.30 p.m.

Whatever the issues, economic, political or social that jockey for the headlines at this time, the suggestion of President Higgins (at the Michael Littleton Memorial Lecture in June 2013) – that we need “an appreciation of how we got to where we are” is a useful one. It is perhaps particularly so in the context of our being a hundred years on from events that “shaped the rest of the 20th century and still cast a long shadow into the 21st century” “History” says Michael D “is essential to understanding who we are today and who we might be in the future”. But to do so, he pointed out, requires an approach to the exploration of history that “allows us to debunk myths to challenge inaccuracies and to expose deliberate amnesia or invented versions of the past”.

A Derry-based Project called Ethical and Shared Remembering has been engaged for some years now in promoting shared and honest explorations of the events of 1912- 1922 which have so influenced the history of Ireland ever since.  It is also promoting discussion about approaches to the commemoration of these events; The Great War began a hundred years ago this year. 2016 will mark the centenary of the Easter Rising – and then there is the question of how the War of Independence and Civil War will be dealt with.

Besides its work in Northern Ireland the Project has also had opportunity to engage in Donegal. A series of evening seminars took place in Letterkenny Library in 2013 and there were one-off sessions in the Autumn of last year in schools and communities throughout the county. Both were initiatives by Donegal County Council implemented by the Hands of History Project.

The event is free of charge and refreshments will be provided.

This event is open to anyone with an interest in any of the events within the period of commemoration, including those involved in the teaching and learning of history in schools, historical societies and to organisations/individuals who may be working towards commemorative events in their area/community during the Decade of Commemorations. If you are interested in attending this seminar,please email joanne@inishowen.ie or damien@inishowen.ie  as soon as possible and no later than Thursday 28th August 2014. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.