by Domhnall de Barra


Closing of Bogs

 There seems to be a lot of ill feeling between the government and pressure groups around the country with relation to household charges, septic tanks and the closure of bogs.  Bogs are very much part of our area and have provided turf for our fires for as long as  we can remember. They also provided  a way of living for people who cut turf for sale when it was in great demand due to the scarcity of coal after the 2nd World War. They were also a way of living for locals who cut, footed, re-footed, drew out and drew home turf for other people during the late Spring and Summer months. I well remember the bogs teaming with people and if you couldn’t see them, you could see the smoke from the fires they lit to boil the kettle.

There is now a law that prohibits the cutting of turf in certain bogs. At the moment our local bogs do not come under that law but I wonder how long it will be before they do. Conservation is laudable and all very fine but when it interferes with age old traditions there has to be some compromise. “Progress”  saw the introduction of the turf machine. This took the labour out of turf cutting but in doing so destroyed the bogs. When the turf cutters of old stripped a bank, they placed the sods in the bog hole and by placing them side by side and end to end  preserved the plants that grew on the surface leaving the boglands as they found them when the turf had been cut away. The machine is loaded with a digger that just leaves holes of water where the peat used to be. This destroys the plant life and all the wild life that lives exclusively on that type of land. There must be a way of extracting the turf without affecting the flora and fauna. If it can be found everyone will be happy and there will be no need for people to put themselves in danger of going to jail for carrying on a tradition handed down to them by their forefathers.  Up the country, people like Luke “Ming” Flanagan are fighting the good fight on behalf of the bog owners. On this morning’s radio he said that a detailed compromise has been drawn up and is to be given to the government. Let us hope that common sense prevails and that we will not suffer tomorrow  the fate of the upland bogmen today.


Septic Tanks

What shambles by the government. First we had the announcement that every septic tank had to be registered at a cost of €50 to the householder. This met with such opposition that Phil Hogan did a remarkable climb-down and reduced the charge to €5. What a ludicrous way to behave. If the government, under pressure from Europe, want to examine tanks around the country, let them pay for it. Why should I or anybody else be liable for their costs?. The whole thing has been badly handled from the word go.  Let’s face it, there are many septic tanks in the country that are not fit for purpose and badly need to be upgraded or replaced. Nobody wants water polluted by these tanks that have outlived their usefulness. That is no reason to expect every  tank in the country to be registered and examined.  A house, built in the past few years complying with all the specifications for the septic tank, should be exempt. One off housing around the country in sparsely populated areas are not a problem as there is plenty of land to filter the effluent. In almost every town and village there is ribbon development on the approach roads with septic tanks quite close to each other. The old type of percolation is not good enough where there is density of housing. The answer is very simple; extend the sewer line to pick up theses houses. Athea was supposed to have a new sewage treatment plant in 1994. The council dithered until it was included in a big group supposedly to avail of European monies. Despite numerous public meetings and lobbying of public representatives the situation remains the same with no hope now, in this economic climate, of any improvement in our system. Don’t forget also that those who built houses  in the country in recent years have had to pay a huge amount of money to the council for “services”.   What services ?    There is no water supply, no sewage system, no refuse collection. People in towns and cities can at least avail of these. Now they want to lumber us with the cost of upgrading septic tanks, one of the “services” many of us have already paid through the nose for. I don’t think so.


Household Charge

This is another charge that has not been met with universal approval.  Many have paid while others are sticking to their guns. The fee of €100 is nothing to what is coming down the line. “Rates” by a different name are going to be introduced next year and the yearly fee will be a multiple of the €100 if what happens in other countries is anything to go by. There would be no problem if household rates had not been done away with in 1977 as a vote-catching exercise by Fianna Fáil. It was unnecessary at the time as everybody paid rates and there wasn’t too much complaint about them. There is bound to be objections to their re-introduction now but we will have to live with them. It is to be hoped that they will be introduced on an “ability to pay” basis. If I can afford it I should pay my fair share but those on low incomes and pensioners etc. should be exempt. If that is not the case there will be trouble for the government as people will only be pushed so far and as the old saying goes “you can’t get blood out of a stone”.


Tidy Towns

As reported last week, the local tidy towns committee is up and running. They need the support of the people of the village if they are to have any success. Being part of the Tidy Towns is not about meetings or great speeches, it is about voluntary work by people with a pride in their own village. There is an old Chinese saying that goes: “if everyone cleans outside their own door we will have a clean town”.  The people of Athea should adopt this method and look after their own patch for a start. A few flowers or hanging baskets here and there, a lick of paint and a good sweeping now and again can make a huge difference. The more able-bodied members of the community might like to volunteer to help tidy up the approach roads. First impressions are important so if the village looks good on the way in it is half the battle. We look forward to more news next week. In the meantime— get cleaning!!