Mullingar skeletons and old bones to be picked in Antrim


MULLINGAR'S past has returned to haunt it, reported the Westmeath Examiner. The gruesome Hallowe'en discovery of ancient friars' skeletons in Mullingar has local priests waving relics and eager archaeologists digging for more.

A workman was operating a digger on Austin Friars Street during the building of a shopping centre and 20 bed "aparthotel" when he began unearthing the brown bones of ancient skeletons.

A team of archaeologists and surveyors has already concluded that the skeletons are of teenaged friars and could be 700 years old, while the actual settlement in which they were buried may predate Newgrange. One skeleton was clutching a relic thought to be a bone of St James.

So far, 35 well preserved human skeletons have been found - but not all seem to have rested in peace. One skeleton, which is slightly crouched with its knees bent, was apparently buried alive.

At least two of the remains were decorated with scallop shells, a sign that they were high profile, probably well to do friars who had travelled abroad, reports the newspaper. The scallop shells are the most significant find so far.

Mr Michael Gibbons, the archaeologist heading the dig, told the Westmeath Examiner a rubbish dump uncovered contained a huge amount of animal remains and microscopic fauna, such as fleas and bugs.

On both sides of the Border, general election preparations are heating up. The Ballymena Guardian front page headline: "Four want to fight Paisley", focused on Ms Mary Patricia Campbell, a Catholic and a "Ballymena girl" who is seeking the Ulster Unionist nomination.

Ms Campbell, whose girlhood days are past, is an Oxford graduate who worked as a research psychologist and later in the office of Sir James Molyneaux. Currently manager of the Unionist Information Office in London, she hit the headlines earlier this year when she dropped a discrimination suit against the Ulster Unionist Party arising out of an appointment she did not get.

She told the Ballymena Guardian she still regards north Antrim as her home. "I want to stand against Paisley because he represents the past and this election should be about the future."

Down south, Fianna Fail was scrambling to deliver credible candidates in some constituencies where they have not had to field new people since the 1970s. The sensation of the week was 27 year old Ms Ann Leonard, who got 50 per cent of the votes on the first count, one short of the quota to secure the nomination for the seat being vacated by her father, Mr Jimmy Leonard, a move covered by both The Anglo Celt and the Northern Standard.

In Longford, the whole awkward business has been postponed until the former Taoiseach, Mr Reynolds's British libel case has been resolved, reports the Longford Leader. Meanwhile, "frantic" attempts by Mr Terry Leyden to get back on the Fianna Fail ticket in Roscommon are the talk of the county. As for Mr Sean Doherty TD, "scarcely a week goes by but he features on Shannonside Radio and other local media".

"Frantic" is also how the Leinster Express described Fianna Fail's behind the scenes activity in Laois/Offaly as it faces its toughest contest there in 20 years. With two party stalwarts, Mr Ger Connolly and Mr Liam Hyland, retiring, Fianna Fail is scrambling for new "personalities".

The Armagh Observer highlighted the apprehension among Protestants in the South over the connection between their church and the Orange Order.

Citing "indications of cross Border divisions in the Church of Ireland resulting from the use of Drumcree Church in Portadown as the rallying point for last July's loyalist protest", it quoted at great length the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Wallace Empey, who believed the church had been "strangely silent" over Drumcree.

The response from the chairman of the new parades review body, Dr Peter North, wasn't encouraging when he revealed to the newspaper that the body "will not make the decision to block or allow next year's Drumcree March".

The response from the chairman of the new parades review body, Dr Peter North, wasn't encouraging when he revealed to the newspaper that the body "will not make the decision to block or allow next year's Drumcree March".

A small victory for a Northern Ireland mother made the front page of the Down Recorder. Ms Irene Cochrane, whose son was killed by an IRA culvert bomb in 1980, will see her 12 year campaign to have her son's name erected on a plaque at the town's war memorial end this week when she unveils a special plaque in his honour at Downpatrick. Other families are expected to follow her example. {CORRECTION} 96110200006