Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Faster text alerts on the way

Text Alerts from the various schemes in the Naas Garda Division will be sent out directly by the gardai from 18 August, writes Brian Byrne.

This will replace the current system where suspicious activity is reported to the gardai, and then the alert is sent out by the holder of the scheme's phone once clearance is received.

It's part of the ongoing development of the schemes, announced by the Division's new Superintendent, Declan McCarthy, at a meeting for Text Alert committee members last evening.

Superintendent McCarthy also said he aims to have community policing 'up and running' under his leadership.

The meeting heard that burglaries in the district are up 34 percent, a crime made easier because of the motorway system.

"It is important we work together as a community in assisting the Gardai," says Sabina Reddy of the Kilcullen Garda District Text Alert Scheme. "Please encourage friends and family to join text alert. Forms can be got from Kilcullen Gardai, Kilcullen Credit Union and Calverstown grocery store."

She also says that the local committee are actively sorting Text Alert signs which will be erected shortly.

Say 'hi' to Hope

Maintain Hope founder Gerry O'Donoghue is back in Kenya where he's making preparations for this year's arrival of volunteer workers from Ireland, writes Brian Byrne.

He sent a picture to the Diary of himself with Hope, the baby girl who was left at the gates of the orphanage earlier this year and for whose needs the recent 'Acoustic Picnic' concert proceeds were designated.

"She is doing well, but will need constant care over the next few months," Gerry told the Diary, adding that all is well in Kenya as it recovers from 'Obamamania'. "His visit had a huge impact here."

Gerry expresses his thanks, once again, to all who have supported, and are supporting the activities of the charity.

The Volunteer Programme for 2015 is fully subscribed but Maintain Hope are taking expressions of interest in MH 2016.

INTO Members who volunteer with Maintain Hope can apply for a grant towards the placement fee from the INTO Solidarity Fund. Contact Georgina Glackin, gglackin@into.ie at Head Office.

Monday, July 27, 2015

AFC junior registration nights

Kilcullen AFC are having junior player registration nights on August 4/5/6, between 7-8pm each night.

On the night, registrants will need to have the fee (or part payment of fees, which can be paid in three installments), as well as a copy of birth certificate to verify age. Parent and player must attend, and sign.

It's also very important to provide a mobile phone and number, as we are trying to improve our database, and implement more communications through both.

Council to consider easement of commercial rates

A rebate on commercial rates is to be considered by Kildare County Council, following the referral of a motion from Cllr Sorcha O'Neill to the Economic Special Policy Committee.

The motion, which called on the local authority to consider and budget to ease the commercial rates burden to businesses for 2016 was 'well received' by the Council, Cllr O'Neill says.

"Our towns are dying, and we need to do more to support local business," she said. "I am optimistic that we can deliver some relief to the SME sector in Kildare."

Murphy Surveys Cycle for Crumlin a great success

Murphy Surveys charity cycle for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin was a great success and we are thrilled so many people came out to support us on 25th July in Kilcullen, writes Caitriona Hanly.

The over-all target is to raise €15,000 and we are well on our way, having reached close to €7,000 on the day. Suppliers, clients, family and friends have been a great support and we are confident we will reach the target by the end of August. This charity has touched the lives of so many here at Murphy Surveys and we are delighted to fundraise for such a worthy cause.

Over 120 cyclists including staff, friends, and members of local cycling clubs joined us on the day. Liam Walker and the members of Kilcullen Cycling Club helped marshall the event and kept everyone safe.

Kildare Rose Ailish Brennan (pictured above with Diarmuid Murphy, Ray Murphy and Niall Murphy) also took part in the cycle. Local businesses including Energie Fitness, Naas; Burkes Pharmacy, Kilcullen; The Westgrove Hotel, Clane; Cross’s Centra, Kilcullen; and Fallon’s Restaurant, Kilcullen, all provided the raffle prizes.

Five students from IBHT were there to provide post cycle massages – which was a great relief to many, especially the amateur cyclists!

We also want to thank Scats Bouncing Castles and Marquees Nationwide for helping us make it a family friendly event.

You can still donate to our charity page at http://www.cmrf.org/sponsor/38219 or contact Caitriona on 045 484040.

More pictures here.

River festival call for steward volunteers

A call has been made by the organisers of the Kilcullen River Festival for volunteer stewards both for the Triathlon on the Saturday night and parts of the main festival on the Sunday afternoon, writes Brian Byrne.

The volunteers can be rostered to work for a short period, and the organising committee hopes that some group might offer their members for the occasion.

In the meantime, preparations are going well for the event on 23 August, the sixth time it has been held. In addition to the familiar format of food and trading stalls, river events including the Lions Club Duck Race and the Raft Race, there will be a Soap Box Derby down the hill from Hillcrest.

Local bands are lined up to provide non-stop entertainment until 6pm, and there will be an extra emphasis on family-friendly attractions, including a Pets Competition.

Businesses and clubs have been circulated with a request to provide candidates for the Festival Queen, who will be selected at the Festival Launch Reception on 14 August in Fallons.

We'll keep you posted on the Diary as more information develops.

Viewpoint: Should we go back to the Big Tree?

They cut down the Big Tree in Kilcullen in the early 70s, writes Brian Byrne. 'They' being Kildare County Council. Without a by your leave, without any kind of what today would be called public consultation. Without even putting up a notice on the tree to say what they planned.

Which was an irony. Because the Big Tree, located where is now the entrance to Conroy Park estate, had for probably hundreds of years been the village notice board.

The contractor who cut it down in an early morning operation found that out to his cost. In the subsequent 'slicing' of the massive trunk, he broke chains regularly on his saw from the hundreds of nails it encountered. They were buried through it, covered by years of successive new rings of bark. I acquired some of that timber to fuel my home fire over later years, and found many of them too.

We can surmise the range of things the notices and posters might have announced. 'Wanted' notices for those required to answer for their crimes were probably among them. Indeed, some local people recall the Big Tree being known also as the 'hanging tree', so some serious miscreants whose doings were posted might have ended up swinging beside their own posters.

Of course, there would have been lots of other news on the tree. Con acre to let, items for sale, auctions, official notices of forthcoming courts, possibly some casual work opportunities, maybe even timetables relating to the coaches which used to change their horses at the stables up where Nicholastown Green is now.

This was all before internet social media, before TV, before radio, before telephones, and even before when newspapers became available for many to buy. But people at least had a central point in the village where they knew they could find essential information.

Today we have the plethora of electronic and print information sources which literally bombard us with news, notices, advertisements, gossip, entertainment, argument, sport, and much more on a 24/7 basis. It also lets anybody and everybody contribute to the remorselessly endless stream. Life has become like a radio discussion where everyone is talking at once and nobody can, or wants to, hear anybody else.

An unintended consequence is that important stuff can get lost in the noise, if not the cacophony. Well, let's be blunt. It does get lost.

I'm prompted to all this by a motion that's to be discussed in Kildare County Council today, put forward by Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy (who has a Kilcullen connection in being married to Bernard Healy). Stripped of motionese, she's saying that lots of people don't know stuff that Kildare County Council is doing. Especially when it's something that requires public consultation.

The thing is, local authorities still, to a large extent, depend on fulfilling their statutory obligations of notices to the public simply by placing an advertisement in the local papers. Sometimes they will also take out radio advertisements. And they may nowadays put a press release in the news section of their websites, and might also put a link to that information on their social media accounts. For key matters, such as development plans, these notices will direct those interested to view them either in the Council offices or your local library.

Which is all very well, and indeed it has to be said the embracing of modern digital media by Kildare County Council has in some ways been a leader to other local authorities around the country.

But all that depends on readership at newspaper level, or 'likes' or 'followers' on social media. And if we look at these, how successfully our own local authority actually gets engagement from the people it serves might need some evaluation. Which is part of what Cllr McLoughlin Healy's motion is all about.

Local newspaper penetration has declined dramatically over the last decade, especially in counties around Dublin to where city families have migrated in great numbers and who don't have, and generally don't develop, an allegiance to a local paper. So-called 'free sheets' typically don't get the same level of attention and scrutiny that a paid-for paper will garner.

Local radio has arguably a much greater 'reach' to the population of, in our case, County Kildare. But radio by its nature is 'written on the wind' and unless expensively repetitive advertising is used, a local authority's public consultation message is not likely to be effective.

Those traditional media will also pick up on some of those matters and do news or features on them. This is probably where more attention is gathered. But page- and air-space is limited, and only 'sexy' — bluntly, controversial — stories will be prioritised.

Facebook and Twitter are the 'sexy' communications media at the moment, but they're very noisy with 'me' chatter, and even if 'liking' or 'following', it isn't clear if a relatively dull announcement about a public consultation will catch the attention of any of those ostensibly connected with the Council. It certainly won't get to anybody who hasn't connected.

As a point of context, if we take it that there's a population of some 210,000 in County Kildare, the Council's Facebook account has a mere 1,715 'likes', and its Twitter followers are rather, but not greatly, better at over 3,000. Neither penetration levels look useful.

So, back to my Big Tree, should our local authority be looking at that heritage for keeping in touch with the people it serves?

I've been in the communications business for most of four decades. In that time I've written, photographed, broadcast and published on a variety of print, radio, TV and internet platforms. And still do. I've been a local, national and international journalist, done PR — hated it — and communications training. But one of the things I still do most every day is walk down the street of Kilcullen and look at the notices in the windows.

That's where I get much of my information and heads-ups for the Diary, and for my 'Down and around in Kilcullen' page in The Kildare Nationalist.

That's where the core of local communication is. And, I believe, that's where Kildare County Council should be looking at, in the various communities it serves.

Everybody in those communities goes to their local shops, their Post Offices (if they still have them), or at least walk the streets of their village or town. And they always look at posters and notices in the windows they pass. So there's a case to be made that the Council should also put their important notices directly in the communities that are particularly affected.

We don't have the Big Tree in Kilcullen any more. As I said, the same Council cut it down. And, as it happened, caused my first published piece, an angry one on the back page of The Bridge, entitled 'The Big Tree is Dead'. I haven't stopped writing since.

But Kildare County Council could be a leader in the country, even in this digital age that I am very much a part of, by establishing a protocol that physical notices be published directly in the communities which they affect. In those shop windows, Post Offices, or — better — even in dedicated noticeboard facilities on the street.

It goes against the whole trend towards digitising everything in our lives. But it might actually be better communication to all of us.

And I might even forgive them for felling the Big Tree ...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cake Sale starts Teach Na nDaoine fundraising

The Cake Sale on Main Street yesterday gave the funding for the new Teach Na nDaoine project a good kick start, writes Brian Byrne.

The organisers of the initiative are expecting to have the keys of the old Dispensary in a couple of days, following agreement on a lease with the HSE.

Chairman of the project committee Albert Keenan said that once they are in the premises, they'll be able to set out a programme of work needed to get the facility up and running quickly. Adding that the resources to be available in the Teach Na nDaoine are still to be firmed up, he said the plan is to have it opened during every weekday.

Pictured above are committee members Steve Kinneavy, Jacinta Sully, Albert Keenan and Noel Clare.