TV investigators `rake the ashes'


A team from the US television investigative news programme, 60 Minutes, has been "raking the ashes" in Limerick. According to the Limerick Leader, the programme-makers are looking into the controversy surrounding Frank McCourt's best-seller, Angela's Ashes, a novel which some Limerick people believe has cast the city in a bad light.

Local barstool critics who may not even have ploughed through the book are attempting "to disprove the entire basis of the book on the basis that a given doorway was the wrong colour", or that "specified buses did not travel at the time described", said the newspaper.

The American TV journalists are experiencing the Limerick lifestyle first-hand: "The producers and crew have been putting up with the frugal comforts of Dromoland Castle during their visit. Mr McCourt, it seems, has also agreed to tolerate such Spartan conditions, and has agreed to join them for the duration."

An argument in Limerick on another matter, the naming of the new bridge over the Abbey river, occupied the Limerick Leader's letters page. The council decided that the bridge would be named after Jim Kemmy, but now a group wants the council to rescind the decision.

John Quinn, of Ballinacurra Gardens, wrote that Jim Kemmy himself wanted the bridge to be named either the Siege Bridge or Lock Mills Bridge as a mark of commemoration of six people who gave their lives there. The six were among hunger-maddened crowds who were attempting to seek food from Lock Mills when they were fired on by the 24th Regiment.

"We're living in a banana republic, it seems, with two laws, one for the rich and one for everybody else," said Jack Ward, whose wife, Anne, was jailed in Mountjoy overnight in 1985 for the non-payment of a washing machine repayment of £400. Mr Ward was speaking to the Drogheda Independent.

"I feel very frustrated about the current situation where big politicians and others are getting handouts and loans that don't have to be repaid, whilst the small person gets hammered all along the way," said Mr Ward. "Why should people sit back and accept this type of two-tier treatment from above?" he asked.

This same theme of disempowerment was highlighted by the Mayo News with the headline, "Study highlights lack of respect for the poor". Research commissioned by the Mercy Sisters in the west concludes that "despite apparent support now afforded people on the margins, there is still a strong feeling of isolation, lack of worth and a very definite inability to alter their present status".

"Naas cries stop!" declared the Kildare Nationalist. A last-ditch attempt to stop major rezoning in the Naas area is being made by residents who plan to flood Kildare County Council and Naas UDC with objections to both the Naas town and county development plans.

Locals have complained that the plans are being driven by developers, but Naas's social infrastructure cannot sustain the projected population increase of 8,000 between 1996 and 2004. It had taken from 1901 to 1991 for a similar increase.

In Belfast, the people have rebelled against a city council decision to withdraw a grant of £30,000 sterling from the St Patrick's Day Carnival, by raising their own funds. The Andersons town News celebrated the "triumph for people of goodwill". These ranged "from excited children, handing over their weekly allowance right up to hard-nosed businessmen realistic enough to see that a rejuvenated Belfast and a forward-looking people will bring a new tide to this city that will lift all boats as we prepare to enter together the new millennium".

The unionist councillors who withdrew the funds are the same penny-wise folk who shell out £70,000 sterling per week for the security operation that is "`keeping Orange feet off the Garavaghy Road," it commented.

The newspaper insisted that St Patrick's Day would be an inclusive event this year, commenting optimistically: "On St Patrick's Day this community will be celebrating not as Catholics, or nationalists, or republicans; we will be celebrating as Irish men and women in Ireland's second city."

The Kerryman and the Clare Champion published a joint editorial on their front pages, entitled "Objective 1: We're no longer happy to be the whipping boys." In the editorial, the newspapers "unashamedly demand fair play for our counties by their inclusion in the new Objective 1 area for EU funding. Through this joint initiative, we believe we are speaking on behalf of well over 220,000 people. We invite our political representatives to take note."