CHRISTMAS can mean polar opposites to different people. Most families, especially those with young children, embrace the festival and all its trappings but for those recently bereaved, suffering illness or living in isolation, it can be a very trying time.
Poverty is something that also dampens the festive spirit and with over 400,000 people now unemployed in Ireland, a new generation is experiencing a Christmas with a lot less in their pockets than they have been used to. Enforced reduction in discretionary spending around Christmas time brings huge changes in lifestyle for many.
The word is that Santa has also had to engage in a bit of cost-cutting at the North Pole and, consequently, might not be able to deliver all the gifts that children have asked for.
While December 25, for the Christian faithful, marks the birthday of Jesus, the Nativity story is especially relevant for people of all creeds or none in the context of what is going on around us today.
Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford fine accommodation on their arrival in Bethlehem and had to settle for a stable at the back of an inn. The story goes that there was no room at the inn but everybody knows that money talks and had the couple been able to cross the palm of the owner, no doubt a room could have been found.
Away from the carpentry shop in Nazareth, they were down on their luck in a strange town. However, with the imminent birth of their son who was to become arguably the most famous figure in history, they had to make the most of things.
With the Government unable to spread any great Christmas cheer in the recent Budget, perhaps those who are badly affected by the recession or are suffering from personal problems can take some measure of comfort from this 2,000-year-old story. With support from family, friends or voluntary groups, it might be possible for them to put their troubles aside for at least one day.
Boil notice ends
MORE than 30,00 people living in Ennis and surrounding areas received a welcome Christmas present last week when Clare County Council and Ennis Town Council announced the lifting of the partial boil notice, which has been in place since May 2005.
It had been expected that the notice would be removed once the €9 million water treatment plant at Drumcliffe, Ennis was brought into service last April but numerous problems with commissioning delayed matters by five months.
When the Health Service Executive (HSE) finally signalled approval last week, Clare County Council was mightily relived to announce that the HSE/Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria for lifting the boil notice had been met. The criteria included water quality, plant commissioning, sustainability of process and epidemiological evidence. Exhaustive testing throughout this year confirmed that there was no presence of cryptosporidium in the treated water that enters the Ennis public water supply.
The treatment works withstood the severe weather conditions experienced recently and during the summer. “Site testing to date would indicate that there are no quality or quantity issues with the water produced,” Clare County Council director of services, David Timlin noted in respect of the plant’s testing period over the last five months. All tests on the water being produced at the new plant have indicated that the water is to the quality required by the Drinking Water Regulations of 2007.
The boil notice was put in place in 2005 following the detection of cryptosporidium in the supply. Areas affected by the drinking water problem over the past four-and-a-half years were Ennis town and surrounding areas, including Clarecastle and environs, Crusheen, Barefield, Doora, Drumcliffe and Spancilhill and group water schemes on the supply.
Under guidelines in place for the partial boil notice, babies and young children, the elderly and patients who were immuno-compromised were advised not to use water directly from the tap. On the occasions where a full boil notice was in operation, everybody was advised not to use tap water for drinking.
A huge number of householders turned to buying water by the gallon in supermarkets and it’s now part of the weekly shop. It’s an added cost that people, who wish to do so, will be able to dispense with from here on.
The full boil notice periods were a nightmare for the hotel, restaurant and pub business in the Ennis area. Many tourists gave Ennis a miss despite many hospitality sector businesses bringing in drinking water in bulk containers from outside sources.
Even when the full boil notice was lifted, it was very difficult to convince people that the local water supply posed just limited risks to those who consumed it. This fear factor has lingered with many not prepared to take any chances.
Hopefully, the lifting of the partial boil notice will bring to an end all the problems 30,000 people have endured for far too long.
Councillor Brian Meaney said the decision removes a cloud that had been hanging over Ennis. In addition to restoring confidence in the water supply, he highlighted the need to safeguard the Drumcliffe springs and increase storage capacity for the supply.
With the lion’s share of future housing in County Clare going to be built in the greater Ennis area, it is vital to learn from past mistakes and have sufficient clean water ready to flow.