No Fools – or Horses

 The rumours that circulated around the country last week that beef products, which had been obviously imported and had been on sale to the public in a number of supermarkets, some foreign but operating in this country, of whom are alleged to be having beef products for sale in their stores which contained additives of horsemeat. Of course it is necessary to concede that horse flesh is not, as such, poison or disease-carrying, in normal circumstances it is however essential to point out that in this country at any rate there are thousands of people who would be disgusted, sickened and appalled if they thought they had eaten it.

While we are fully aware that there are countries even in the European continent where horsemeat is on a regular menu these countries have different tastes to what we have, and to think that this horsemeat was imported into the country mixed in with beef imports baffles the imagination. Do those suppliers on the continent or wherever it came from believe that we are a nation of fools whatever about horses, that these products reached supermarket shelves without any proper screening. Horsemeat is not beef and why should any foreigner believe that Irish people could be conned into buying it without proper inspection and testing. We have heard such a lot of baloney from the Health and Safety Authorities here during recent years that would lead us to believe that such a thing could not possibly happen but now we know that some of the retail outlets here, particularly the foreign ones, are a law unto themselves after what has happened since Christmas.

We are regularly hearing those times about the traceability of food products such as beef and other meats from the source, but as in many another context it becomes apparent that this applies only to home produced goods and foods. How are our food and hygiene officials going to assure us that imported stuff is safe and disease-free when horsemeat under the pretence of being beef was allowed to enter the country and be offered for sale in various forms. In fact the only safe guideline at the present time is for people to buy their meat supplies from their friendly, local butchers and in local shops where Irish produced foods are sold.

We hear a lot of stories these days, whether these be true or not, about poultry imports coming in from foreign countries and being re-branded as Irish when those imports arrive. It certainly leaves doubts in people’s minds about what they are eating. There are many farmers and others who are taking the wise course and have some of their own young, healthy animals slaughtered for beef, mutton, bacon and so forth as well as their own poultry for Christmas and other times kept in a fridge until they are required. Why, one might well ask, is there a need for importing either meat or fish products of any kind into this country when we have a plentiful supply right here at home. It certainly is an awful shame closing down poultry factories such as Castlemahon and Kantoher and importing poultry from the ends of the earth without knowing how safe such imports are. It just does not make any sense. God be with the days when rural people and indeed some in towns as well were able to rear and kill their own pigs and have bacon to feed their family for much of the year. There was no nonsensical “Health and Safety” bunkum then, no food poisoning, no “winter vomiting” bugs and apart from the TB scourge at the time people were comparatively healthy living on a plain, wholesome diet much of which was home produced. The sly importation of horsemeat mixed with beef within the past month should make people very wary of what they are buying in certain supermarkets. We remember some years ago there was a scare about some additives in cottage and shepherd pies which turned people off from buying these products for a time. It is difficult to see any great reason why there is any need whatsoever for the wholesale importation of food products and confectionery into our country when all these products could be manufactured at home as these were in past and poorer times when a great deal of employment was created in Irish factories in the production of goods for the domestic market. We all remember Geary’s Biscuits, NKM Toffees and sweets which were available around the country, the NKM label standing for North Kerry Manufacture. There are no food shortages in this state, thanks be to God for that, so what is the need for all those imports. We know of course that we now have to import sugar from abroad since the time that our own Government and the Europeans between them finished our beet and sugar industry which had been one of the most successful undertakings ever introduced into Ireland. Even during the years of the Second World War 1939-1945 which was known here as the Emergency there was no real food shortage here even though some items were rationed. But compared to the war-torn countries of Europe and indeed England feeding our people was never a major problem here even though some household goods including imported fruit were difficult to get. During that time we did not see an orange in over five years. There was an acute food shortage in England which meant that there was a big demand for whatever kinds of food we could export to them. This meant that rural dwellers here made good money snaring rabbits for a shilling and sixpence each and even crows were selling at seven pence each all destined for export to the English food chain. In England itself people went out to gather seabird’s eggs and sold them at various outlets.

During the war years my late brother Sean, who was a carpenter, worked with a firm of builders in London who, after a night’s bombing by the Germans in the city, the demolition gangs would check the damage and demolish houses or business premises which were beyond repair, or make premises safe where the bomb damage was less severe. It was a dangerous enough job with a constant risk of a collapsed building. But there was good money to be made and Sean availed of it and he and his wife Bridie returned home after the war and built a new house in Ballymacelligott parish. In 1959 they emigrated with their family to New York in one of the big ocean liners where they spent the rest of their lives. Sean used to tell us about his time in bomb-wrecked London during the war when one went in at night to a café or restaurant and asked for chicken, which apparently was very scarce in London at the time. The restaurant waiter or café attendant would shake their heads a bit sadly and reply; “sorry mate, but we have no more chicken, the only thing we have left in that line tonight would be some rook pie if you would care to have it.” So they did cook some Irish crows in hungry and war-torn London which somehow does not make horsemeat look so bad after all.

Our New Bishop

The appointment of our new Bishop-elect of Limerick, Fr. Brendan Leahy, will be welcomed by Catholics all over the City and County as well as by other Christian denominations and their clergy and people of goodwill generally. It is all our hope and prayer that he will have a long and happy reign among the people of this great, friendly and generous County to which he has been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as the next Bishop of Limerick.

The new Bishop’s parents, who were teachers in Dublin, were both from Ballyferriter in West Kerry, so we can surely claim him as a son of the “Kingdom”. Like many other great Kerry men and women who came to work and settle in Limerick we are confident that he will bring a new era of hope and progress to the Church in Limerick and the people generally.

Our new Bishop has also some connections with Athea as his father was a teacher in the local National School here for some time and also, by all accounts, played with Athea football team.