Tag: west limerick

Lights, camera, action?

I am not alone in wondering what the status of Limerick City & County Council’s Smart CCTV surveillance system is. County councillors have been asking what the delay with the system is and it appeared some weeks ago that the provision of legal advice to the Council was imminent but, as far as I can see, it has not been presented to councillors for consideration.

(See my previous post for some background on community surveillance and Limerick.)

The Data Protection Commission had told me last month that their office was not going to investigate complaints against the Limerick scheme because a national study on public CCTV was to commence within weeks, part of which would look at the Limerick scheme. However, the Commission also told me that it was their “understanding that the CCTV systems … are not in operation.” They did not state where that understanding came from. Somewhat unusually, the Commission does not appear to have made any public statement about its national study other than what was reported in the Irish Times in March.

So, I asked Limerick City & County Council if the cameras were recording. This request was made under section 3 of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2018, which allows individuals to see if an organisation is processing personal data. The Council have today told me that the surveillance system is active and recording footage. They say, however, that the footage is not currently being accessed because the cameras are being tested.

The Council’s position on this is that the system is in a “transitional” status and not a “live” or “operational” one because the footage is not being monitored. They say that the system is not not yet “live” because the Council is finalising its CCTV policy in line with the GDPR and data protection legislation. However, it is clear that the cameras are recording and the Council is, therefore, processing personal data (see Article 4 GDPR for the definition of “processing”). It is not clear what is being done with the footage recorded or what the testing of it involves.

A notable aspect of the Limerick scheme is that it has been authorised by the Garda Commissioner under section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which provides for authorisations of community surveillance only for public order. The then Acting Commissioner confirmed to me in January that the authorisation granted was “for the sole or primary purpose of securing public order and safety in public places by facilitating the deterrence, prevention, detection and prosecution of offences.” The Council tell me that the primary purpose of the scheme is public order and safety “including” the following:

I was particularly interested in the reference to the “perception of safety” – the Council’s own statistics in the report that lead to the surveillance system show a significant drop in reported crime in many areas, including Newcastle West.

The Data Protection Commission will have to decide, in the first instance, whether or not the purposes to which the Council wishes to put its surveillance network are a justified and proportionate infringement on the privacy rights of individuals.  The remarkably vague reference to “open data” gives rise to further concern and it is again astonishing that a privacy impact assessment does not appear to have been done in advance of planning such a system.

It remains to be seen how piggybacking these additional purposes on the surveillance system is compatible with the section 38 authorisation granted by the Garda Commissioner. The Commissioner has not yet confirmed the position on that point but the previous Acting Commissioner confirmed to me that they had not, for example, authorised ANPR or tourism cameras.

Whatever results from the national study, it will be interesting to see where the Data Protection Commission obtained the understanding that Limerick’s surveillance system was not in operation and how the Council’s continuing preparations for the full operation and monitoring of the system will interact with the Commission’s national study.

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For how long will your local District Court be in your district area, or local?

Newcastle West District Court

Today, the Limerick Leader reports on informal discussions between the Courts Service and the Gardaí about moving sittings of the Newcastle West District Court to Kilmallock, about 36 kilometres away. Kilmallock has benefitted from huge investment in recent years, whereas Newcastle West District Court remains antiquated and with few facilities. However, it is still a functioning Court building.

It goes without saying that moving District Court sittings to Kilmallock would have a significant impact on business in the town. The effect would be felt not only (not even most severely) by solicitors, who already travel around the region to represent clients at various hearings. It would, however, force a further downturn on the restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops in the town that get a considerable lift to their business when the court sits.

For those not familiar with Newcastle West, it’s an old market town in West Limerick. It’s the biggest town in the County and familiar to many travelling to Kerry as the main road passes through.

The town has its origins in a castle (the old castle) erected by the Knights Templars in 1184 and since then it has played an important role in West Limerick. Part of that role has been the administration of justice. Samuel Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) notes the important market and court sessions in the town:

Courts leet and baron are held by the seneschal of the manor, and petty sessions for the district are held every Friday.

Over the centuries, as with any market town, court and market days brought significant life and business to the town. The market days are mostly a thing of the past, but Newcastle West District Court still sits regularly and incorporates the old sittings of the Adare, Rathkeale and Askeaton courts.

Aside from monetary concerns, moving the court would have a psychological impact, stripping the town of an important official function. The town would be somewhat diminished as a result. And while 36 kilometres might not seem a tremendous distance, there is no direct means of public transport from the Newcastle West area to Kilmallock.

PS. Incidentally, last year the High Court rejected a challenge taken by solicitors in the New Ross area against the temporary relocation of that town’s court sittings to Ardcavan. The challenge was on public interest grounds and on the basis that the move threatened the applicant’s right to earn a living. The case is interesting because it related to temporary arrangements in the case of an “urgent need” or where the courthouse involved becomes “unsafe or otherwise unusable”. This is not the case with Newcastle West District Court.

Attention “country bumpkins”: Labour wants your vote!

Labour has never really had a presence in this part of Limerick West (soon to be North Kerry-West Limerick). However, the combination of Eamon Gilmore’s popularity and the party’s success in the opinion polls has put all constituencies in play and the party recently had a large billboard on the main road through Newcastle West seeking members.

In that context, I was interested to read the views of Labour’s Cllr Gerry “Ginger” McLoughlin on my neck of the woods.

These country bumpkins have no regard for Limerick. They have destroyed the city with the planning, and are no friends of ours. We are not here to serve Newcastle West, or other places in the a******e of county Limerick. I am a city man – I don’t go down there, and have no time for them.

 

From the National Library of Ireland
Newcastle West around the 1900s. Or, for the Labour party, yesterday.

 

Joking aside, these are pretty unacceptable comments for an elected representative to make about the county surrounding his constituency.

In addition, the planning issues he mentions could only realistically be tackled by the measures proposed by the Brosnan proposals, which McLoughlin and his urbane colleagues are now opposing with such charming arguments as that quoted above.

Update: Labour are unrepentant and Jan O’Sullivan has backed Mr. McLoughlin’s “colourful” comments.

Regional papers got that regional knowledge, right?

The Limerick Leader is one of those great regional titles with local knowledge and the occasional huge national story. They publish a West Limerick edition which this week includes a special feature on Newcastle West, the biggest town in the area.

I was drawn to the “Things to do in Newcastle West” section.

Scanned from the Limerick Leader. Copyright? Travelodge Hotels Australia

Eager to see if there was anything on the list I hadn’t done, I was surprised to fall at the first hurdle:

1. Discover the Bogey Hole: a hand-hewn ocean rock pool …

Hold on just a minute, thought I, there’s a hand-hewn ocean rock pool in NCW and no-one told me!

… carved out of a cliff face by convicts in the 19th century under the direction of James T. Morisset, the military commandant in Newcastle from 1819-1822, who used it for his personal bathing.

I’m no local historian, but this didn’t sound right. The later reference to scenic “Newcastle Beach” (NCW is landlocked) sealed the deal.

From where, one might wonder, would such a top 10 list originate? Why, here it is, verbatim apart from the addition of the word “West” in the title, on the website of Travelodge Hotels Australia.

So that would be the top 10 things to do in Newcastle, New South Wales.

Éigse Michael Hartnett

The eleventh Éigse Michael Hartnett arts and literary festival takes place in Newcastle West from 22 to 24 April. The line-up is impressive for a short festival, including poetry readings, lectures, puppet and music shows (brochure available here). Special guests include Jorie Graham, Fintan O’Toole and Mark Patrick Hederman.

Picture from the Éigse Michael Hartnett websiteMicheal Hartnett was the poet laureate of the area, born in Croom and raised in Newcastle.

Lovable yet separate, operating within his own field of force. I’ll never forget reading his first short hypnotic poems in the early sixties; they had a kind of Orphic throb, as if a new Lorca had emerged from Newcastle West. In fact, Michael shared Lorca’s ability to combine avant-garde daring with native tradition; he took the boldest of technical and emotional risks, living in and through and for his poetry to the end. Séamus Heaney

Newcastle West Community Council have, in advance of the festival this year, commissioned a public sculpture to commemorate Michael, for display in Newcastle.

Local businesses are running a literary trail, displaying some of his works in their shop windows. This example is Death of an Irishwoman, written for his grandmother Bridget Halpin.

Death of an Irishwoman
Ignorant, in the sense
she ate monotonous food
and thought the world was flat,
and pagan, in the sense
she knew the things that moved
all night were neither dogs or cats
but hobgoblin and darkfaced men
she nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
to eat thin diminishing porridge
in a stone-cold kitchen
she clenched her brittle hands
around a world
she could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.

She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a card game where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child’s purse, full of useless things.

© Michael Hartnett

Update

See

Lady Icarus

On Sunday morning I noticed, for the first time, the below plaques on AIB’s Newcastle West branch.

Sophie Peirce
Lady Icarus honoured in her home town

They commemorate Sophie Peirce, known in later life as Lady Heath and nicknamed Lady Icarus.

Sophie was born in Knockaderry House, a few miles outside Newcastle West. She appears to have spent some of her early youth in Dublin until the untimely death of her mother at the hands of her father, who was sent to the then Dundrum Mental Asylum For The Criminally Insane, resulting in Sophie’s return to West Limerick. At the time of the 1911 census, she was living with her grandfather at 16 the Square, Newcastle West.

As noted in this book review of From Sophie to Sonia: A history of women’s athletics, the record-setting, parachute-jumping aviator is little known in Ireland.

She went to England early in the First World War and served as despatch rider with the Royal Flying Corps. She was married and divorced three times and achieved prominence in varied fields. Sophie, then Mrs. Elliott Lynn, started her athletics career in 1921, and set a world record for the high jump of 4 ft. 10½ in. (1:48 metres). She represented Britain in two Women’s world Games, coming 4th in the javelin. Sophie became involved in athletics administration on the formation of the women’s A.A.A. in 1922, and wrote a seminal coaching manual “Athletics for Women and Girls” in 1925 … Sophie later became a pioneer aviator, made the first solo flight from Cape Town to London and became a pilot with K.L.M. Sadly, she died in a road accident in London in 1939, aged 42.

RedMum wrote about Sophie in late 2006 as part of a series of blog posts on great Irish women, adding to the impression of her as an eccentric maverick in the Roaring Twenties mould.

Her epic trip from Cape Town to London was made with a Bible, a shotgun, a couple of tennis rackets, six teagowns and a fur coat, in a time when men flew with boiled eggs and ham sandwiches.

She even had her portrait painted by Sir John Lavery.

From the website of the Hugh Lane gallery
An Irish Pilot, by Sir John Lavery (linked from the website of the Hugh Lane gallery)

Amelia Earhart gets most of the aviatrix attention but with her movie getting bad reviews, there may be a market for a biopic of Lady Icarus and her exploits.

See:

Garry McMahon weekend at the West Limerick Singing Club

The West Limerick Singing Club has been meeting on the first Thursday of every month since 2002, at the Ramble Inn in Abbeyfeale. My late father, Garry, was a regular attendee at the Club and, a long-time ballad singer and maker himself, loved this committed group of ballad enthusiasts.

The Club is paying Garry a tremendous tribute this weekend by hosting the Garry McMahon singing weekend, from Friday 6 to Sunday 8 November. Events include:

  • an official opening by Donncha Ó Dualaing, followed by singing sessions in the Ramble Inn and Leens Hotel on Friday evening;
  • ballad signing and storytelling workshops throughout Saturday;
  • singing sessions in local bars on Saturday evening;
  • a performance of Aifreann na Ríocht (composed by Garry) at 12 noon mass on Sunday; and
  • a concert featuring Garry’s songs and stories.

Many renowned local and national singers and storytellers are expected on the weekend, which will stand not only as a tribute to Garry but also to the strength of the West Limerick Singing Club.