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Facing a quiet weekend at Aillwee Cave

  UPWARDS of 2,000 visitors would usually head to the Aillwee Cave and Birds of Prey Centre over a June bank holiday but it remains closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Around half of the visitors to the famous attraction are overseas, so owner Nuala Mulqueeney is facing a big financial hit for the season. “Our annual figures are about 120,000 visitors. When extended travel is allowed in Ireland, we can expect some recovery, but you can forget about visitors from the US or countries; they won’t fly,” she said. Only a handful of maintenance workers and two falconers who feed and exercise the birds have been at Aillwee since the lockdown in March. “St Patrick’s weekend is always good for us and we lost out on that,” said owner Nuala Mulqueeney. While very disappointed that the facility is still closed, she said they have plans to ensure the safety of visitors when they do reopen on July 20. “We …

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Canon Michael reflects on 60 years in priesthood

CANON Michael McLaughlin will reach a remarkable milestone on June 11, when he celebrates the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Unlike 10 years ago, when large numbers attended the special mass and celebrations in Kilmaley to mark the golden jubilee of his ordination in Carlow Cathedral in 1960, things will be more subdued this time round. The Covid-19 restrictions mean that the members of community will be unable to organise a mass to mark the big occasion for the now retired Kilmaley parish priest, less still a big party, but they are always with him in spirit. The 84-year-old Miltown Malbay native, who is now visually impaired, has great memories of all the parishes he’s been in. “I hated leaving the first parish I was assigned to; I would have stayed there forever if I could. But you learn to move along, you’ve no choice, and you learn and gain different experiences wherever you go. I benefited …

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St Patrick inspires Kilkee native working in Papua New Guinea

IT’S a long way from West Clare to Papua New Guinea, but Fr John Glynn who is a long-time citizen of the island nation still holds his native Kilkee very close to his heart. Currently on lock-down until at least early June, Fr John, who is full of energy and drive, despite his 80+ years, told The Champion he is keen to return to normal daily life. For the retired teacher, that includes working with some of the country’s most vulnerable, as well as co-hosting a weekly one-hour radio show on the Catholic station, Radio Maria. Over his many decades in Papua New Guinea, Fr John was instrumental in setting up the WeCARe! Organisation, to work with the poor and disadvantaged who make up a considerable percentage of the state’s eight million citizens. Fr John described his adopted home as “an absolute paradise” in terms of its beauty, but a land of deeply ingrained inequality.“Illiteracy rates here are around 85%,” …

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Quin equestrian company moves horse sales on-line

NECESSITY is said to be the mother of invention, and that’s certainly true during the Covid-19 crisis. With severe restrictions on movement hitting the sale of thorough-bred horses, Quin equestrian specialist Johnny Hassett has responded by moving his business on-line. The Bloodstock Connection, at Ballyhannon House, specialises in producing what are called ‘breeze up’ horses. These are generally two-year-olds, who are galloped or ‘breezed’ along a track where prospective buyers can assess them before inspecting them at the sales arena. Taking the business into the virtual world was very much a “make or break” response to the coronavirus outbreak. “We made the decision around seven weeks ago,” Mr Hassett said. “It has gone well in that we’ve sold some horses, but the really big benefit has been to raise our profile and keep our names out there. As a breeze up company, we had doubled up on horses, twice as many horses and upped the calibre significantly and the spend, …

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Feakle man’s ‘Covid cut’ head shave to raise funds for The Mater

AS hair salons and barber shops remain closed until July 20, some people have been going to extreme lengths while others have opted for a so-called ‘Covid cut’ – and choosing to do some fund-raising in the process. Among them is Feakle native Trevor Collins who will have his head saved live on Facebook on Friday night, to raise funds for The Mater Foundation. The organisation is very close to the hearts of Trevor and his family, as his dad Michael had a life-saving lung transplant at the hospital in 2017 and is currently receiving treatment there after contracting a rare form of meningitis. “We will be forever in their debt,” said Trevor. “There’s a doctor there for everything and when dad took ill first, we were nearly looking at palliative care for dad, but for the fact that we did our own research and got him treated at the Mater.” Almost a decade ago, Michael was diagnosed with pulmonary …

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East Clare inspiration for ‘Normal People’ actor Frank Blake

FOR a young actor, being in lock-down while some of your highest-profile work graces screens around the world, must be something of an anti-climax. For Frank Blake, the enforced isolation in his native Tuamgraney, during the height of the buzz around Normal People, is not without its advantages, however. Frank, who plays the complex character of Alan in the adaptation of the award-nominated novel by Sally Rooney, has been using the time to explore his own screen-writing abilities. Given that his great aunt, Edna O’Brien, is one of the country’s greatest living authors, it’s probably a safe bet that he has more than a little literary talent. Now based in Dublin, the actor has been clocking up significant screen and stage roles, including a part in Druid’s landmark production of Richard III. He returned to East Clare shortly before the lock-down was announced, and just as the BBC3’s Normal People, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, was set for a stratospheric launch. …

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Showing a little kindness at Cootes

AS is so often the case when campaigns of any sort begin, it was one single incident that led to the random act of kindness phenomenon that has unfolded in an Ennis shop. It is yet another example of how people have rallied around to help each cope with the restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Stephen Coote, owner of Cootes shop and bakery at Cahercalla Cross on the Kilrush Road, is amazed by the number of people that have been drawn to the notion of “strangers helping strangers” though their local store. Trade at Cootes has been badly affected by Covid-19, as there is no activity at the Éire Óg GAA grounds across the road and nearby St Flannan’s College is closed The random act of kindness idea began on Easter Saturday, April 11, when the Covid-19 regulations were being ratcheted up. Stephen said, “A woman who was out for a walk came into the shop …

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Members of the Carrigaholt Festival Committee; Annabel Mc Mahon, at front, with, back from left, Imelda Lynch of The Long Dock, , Christian Heta, Amigo's Caravan Park, Mark Carmody of Carmody's Bar and Mags Keane o Keane's Bar, who held a virtual online festival due to the cancellation of their main event because of the Corona Virus. Photograph by John Kelly

Carrigaholt hold ‘virtual’ Oyster and Trad Festival

THE community of Carrigaholt are hoping to secure the honour of hosting the very first ‘virtual’ festival, after Covid-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of the 30th annual Oyster and Traditional Music Festival. Disappointment at the axing of the event, which was set to be all the more memorable to celebrate three decades, sparked a bright idea for Annabel McMahon who had been tasked with the PR and marketing. Annabel, who runs a digital marketing company in Carrigaholt, said the idea of going virtual quickly snowballed: “We were really so sad that nothing was happening when normally there would have been such a huge build-up to the festival,” she explained. “Last Friday, I contacted the organising team and asked them what they thought about creating a virtual festival on-line. They said, ‘why not?’ and so by 11am, I’d put the call out on Facebook to all of the performers who would normally be here to send their videos.” A outage of the …

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