Miriam Lord’s week: Jimmy Deenihan’s reputation reaches Uganda

‘Jimmy’s Borehole’ might not sound very charitable, but that’s exactly what it is

No. Stop it. Just stop it.

It is what it is.

A borehole.

Although this not any old borehole. This is “Jimmy’s Borehole”. All the way from Kerry to the village of Naminyagwe in eastern Uganda.


Five time All-Ireland winner and former Fine Gael minister Jimmy Deenihan doesn’t do things by half measure. He’s keeping busy since bowing out of national politics after losing his seat in the 2016 election.

Deenihan has always been a very active fundraiser for projects in his local community, but he is also a board member of the international aid charity Goal.

He decided to take action following a visit to Uganda two years ago when he saw how the villagers had to make a two-hour trek to the nearest safe borehole to draw clean water. Sometimes this wasn’t possible so the community would take water from nearby disease-infested shallow wells.

The former minister for arts was so shocked by what he saw that he set about organising a fundraiser to cover the cost of a new clean water borehole for the area. He roped in some friends when he returned to Kerry and they started training for a 5,380m expedition to Mount Everest base camp. Six months later they completed the trek and hit their fundraising target. The cost of building the borehole was €6,900.

“It is incredible to think that this relatively small investment will transform hundreds of lives,” said Jimmy.

Monday was World Water Day, and the locals in Naminyagwe were celebrating the commissioning of their new clean water facility. Francis Etiang, chairman of the Water User Committee, thanked Deenihan, Goal and the Irish people for their support. “Until now we had to get water from shallow wells for use in our homes,” he said. “The wells are contaminated with worms. Children and adults often fell sick.”

The committee will oversee the maintenance and cleaning of the borehole, and each household will contribute 25 cents a month towards the upkeep. Two people will be selected from households each week to ensure it is kept clean. The borehole also has a covered soak pit to avoid digging by animals.

A plaque has been put up to mark the new well’s arrival. “Donated by Jimmy Deenihan and friends from Ireland,” it says.

But to all the locals it is simply known as “Jimmy’s Borehole”.

So they must have known he is a politician by trade.

But why stop there?

There are plenty of spare boreholes in Leinster House.

Perhaps Goal should get in touch.

It’s all Greek to Mark Daly

Mark Daly, Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, is very fond of foreign travel. He adores popping over to the US, where he rubs shoulders with Irish-American politicians on Capitol Hill, where senators are very important people. Not like in Ireland, where they only think they are.

God love him, but he must be missing the throb of the jet engines and the smell of aviation fuel. On a happier note, Mark must be in line for an avalanche of tasty invitations from overseas parliaments whenever this lockdown unpleasantness blows over.

Senators have noticed that their chairman has been making it his business of late to butter up other nations when he gets the chance.

He was at it again on Monday, which we soon discovered was Independence Day in Greece.

“I want to make a few remarks,” he said. “We are grateful to the people and country of Greece for their contribution to the world, not only for giving us the meaning and idea of democracy but also for the very word itself. Ireland is unique in having the only capital city with a street named after the Greek language.”

Then he gave a few facts about the country and spoke a few words of the lingo.

“Zeéto eeméra anexartisías” stuttered Mark, delighted with himself. It means “happy Independence Day”.

A few weeks earlier it was the turn of Bulgaria, with more fun facts to enthral Senators.

“Chestit praznik means ‘Happy holidays’ in Bulgarian, and March 3rd marks the international date for the re-establishment of Bulgarian statehood from the Ottoman Empire in 1878.”

In February the Cathaoirleach was keen to flag Estonia’s national day. “A year before Dáil Éireann sat for the first time, Estonia declared independence on February 24th, 1918.” This year is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Estonia and Ireland.

“In my best Estonian, ‘Head Vabariigi aastapäeva’.”

The previous week, he started off his little speech about Lithuania Day with a cheery “Su laisvës diena, Lietuva”.

And in January the Seanad was lucky enough to sit on Australia Day. Daly was very happy about this. “This year is the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Australia and the 80th anniversary of the first meeting between an Irish taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, and an Australian prime minister, Ben Chifley. Diplomatic relationships continue to flourish under the new Australian ambassador to Ireland, HE Gary Gray, who arrived last year.”

Sadly, he didn’t treat the House to an Aussie saying.

But back to Greece, and the Cathaoirleach’s assertion that Dublin is the only capital city to have a street named after the Greek language.

David Norris asked what that street was called.

“It’s Greek Street,” revealed Mark.

Round the back of the Four Courts.

“The next time you go by the Four Courts, you will be able to see the only street in the whole world named after the Greek language.”

But is it true? London has the famous Greek Street in Soho, although it apparently takes its name from a 17th-century Greek church in the area.

As for Dublin, we found this nugget of information in a scholarly report prepared for the Intercultural Working Group of the North West Inner City Network: “Palatine Square was named after the Palatines, a Protestant sect from Germany who settled in the Dublin 7 area, just as the Huguenots, who were expelled from France, settled in the Liberties area of Dublin 8. Greek Street was so named because of its ethnically diverse population; at that time people from overseas were referred to generically as ‘Greek’.”

McGrath’s personal plea

On Friday, on the anniversary of his father’s death, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath posted a reminder to people to support Daffodil Day, the Irish Cancer Society’s annual fundraiser.

“I doubt there is a home in the country that hasn’t been touched by cancer,” he said. “Like so many others, I have my own story. My dad, Jack, died of cancer on Daffodil Day 26 years ago. I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was a beautiful, sunny Friday afternoon. I held his hand as he passed away at home surrounded by his family.

“My family had very little at the time and we benefited from the help of Marymount Hospice community palliative care services. They are very special people.

“The picture below is from much earlier, happier times.

“Please support the Irish Cancer Society in whatever way you can.”

Michael says he was “nearly two” in that lovely photo of him sitting on his father’s knee. He was 18 when Jack died.

“A day I will never forget.”

And he asks people not to forget Daffodil Day and to text DAFFODIL to 50300 to donate €6, or make an online donation at donate.cancer.ie.

Big Green week overshadowed by Chu

The ructions in the Greens over party chairwoman Hazel Chu controversially deciding to contest a Seanad byelection while temporarily declaring as an Independent for a vote she has little hope of winning, overshadowed the three big events of the week.

The first was the Government’s approval of the Climate Action Bill, a big success for the Green Party. This was lost in the ongoing hullabaloo over Chu’s Seanad declaration.

The second was National Tree Week, and the third was the return of sheep to the Cooley peninsula.

Away from the in-fighting, Fianna Fáil senator Erin McGreehan was flying the uncontroversial Green flag.

Marking National Tree Week, she spoke of her “real passion” for native Irish trees. She has set herself the noble and wonderful ambition of planting 1,000 of them and was seen handing out little saplings of native trees to colleagues in Leinster House last Christmas.

“If you don’t plant a tree this week, I would urge you to go and learn about the folklore behind each and every one of our trees,” she said, informing Senators that Alder was this month’s tree.

“Alder was seen in old Irish tradition as the first tree that a man sprang from ... It was also used to make shields. So the Red Branch Knights of Ulster – I always thought it was a strange name to be calling an ancient Irish army – but Craobh Rua was their name... because they made their shields from alder and when you cut alder, it turns red. So you had an army of red branches coming for you.”

On Friday, Louth-based Erin said it had been 20 years since the foot-and-mouth crisis, which wiped out the sheep flocks in the the Cooley peninsula, north Louth and south Armagh.

“Generations of breeding, going back hundreds of years, were lost and can never be reclaimed.”

But since then farmers have worked hard to restock the hills, and now the area has the largest sheep breeders’ association in Ireland.

“Perhaps next year, Senators will be able to visit the peninsula and see the finest sheep in the country.”