Media exceed limits in pursuit of new


THE return of Bishop Brendan Comiskey and the death of what the British tabloids called the "boy" moved the centre of gravity this week's provincial papers to the south east.

The bishop's return leads the bomb story on the front page of the New Ross Standard, with the order reversed in both the Gorey Guardian and the Wexford People. But the bishop story dominates the coverage in all three sister newspapers and is the subject of their common editorial.

The tone is respectful, accepting that the bishop's denials, coming as they did from the altar, "will, of course, be accepted as the solemn truth". But there's a sting. "Unfortunately," the editorial continues, ..... we are sure that he and his advisers will understand the need to support what he says with the clear evidence, and documentation if necessary."

Meanwhile, the same newspapers have added speeding to the list of allegations to be faced by Dr Comiskey, albeit with the press equally accused. In a report headlined "Media keep frosty vigil for bishop", reporter Brendan Furlong tells of the chase by reporters after the bishop - who was not himself driving - left his residence on the Saturday evening of his public reappearance, with a posse of journalists in hot pursuit.

"At speeds varying between 80 and 90 mph," the report alleges, "the convoy raced in the direction of the cathedral town, with Father Tommy Brennan in the lead."

Far fewer column inches are devoted to the story of Ed O'Brien. The local coverage adds nothing to what is already known, but a paragraph in the front page story of the Guardian and the People gives a clue to the minimalist approach: "There was a growing sense of revulsion among local people at the appallingly insensitive nature of some of the reporters who arrived in the town and made a bee line for the O'Brien household." The Tuam Herald was preoccupied with much less serious matters this week. It reported a major outbreak of lavatorial humour in Galway's City Hall when the corporation announced the purchase of a £60,000 "superloo".

Among other features, the Salthillbound, single cubicle toilet was said to be equipped with a computerised brain which will prevent its being occupied by more than one person at a time. It also features automatic door opening after a set period, though not before an alarm and a flashing light have warned the occupant.

The paper reported that the city manager, Mr Joe Gavin, was "doubled over" (with laughter rather than a need to use the new facility) at one point in the debate, after which a motion to approve the purchase was passed (snigger). But perhaps the most cogent argument was that of Councillor Paddy Lally, who urged that users of the superloo be allotted sufficient time to read an edition of The Irish Times.

Back to conflict, of a kind. The "growing antipathy of some local farmers" to the Laois Hunt boiled over recently, the Laois Nationalist reports, when a farmer fired warning shots into the air to chase off hounds and hunt members who entered his land without permission.

For years, we are told, relations between the hunt and a number of farmers and landowners in the Swan Wolfhill area have been strained over allegations of trespass. The warning shots followed the dispatch of a solicitor's letter to the hunt, and the huntspeople must now be hoping the matter doesn't escalate further.

In the still peaceful north east, the Donegal Democrat is, Skibbereen Eagle-like, keeping its eye on the Russians. The paper advises readers to look out for a "spectacular space chase" blazing across the Donegal night skies over the next few days, as the Russian space station Mir is chased by a Soyuz craft delivering a new crew.

And it profiles one Manus McClafferty, a Falcarragh based radio ham, who hopes to "renew contacts he has enjoyed over the years with Russian cosmonauts."

Among Manus's many radio contacts, we learn, was the record breaking Sergei Krikalev. Sergei was in space for all of 15 months, and some what out of touch with the news. Fortunately, the Democrat tells us, he had Manus to keep him abreast of developments, which included nothing less than the break up of the Soviet Union.

Finally, flood threatened farmers in the midlands might reflect on the plight of Tom Buckley. The north Kerry farmer is in danger of losing his home to the sea because the county council can't afford the money to prevent coastal erosion near his house, according to the Kerryman.

The house was built at a comfortable distance from the shore, but the distance has narrowed greatly since the 1960s and "a few more rough tides" could leave it in the sea, according to Tom.

"I'm only about 30 yards from the sea and every time there's a high tide, the water comes a bit closer to the house," he said.