Category Archives: News

Cadet David Jevens: Forfaire agus Tairiseact (Watchful and Loyal).

Cadet David Jevens

I don’t do breaking news on this blog, as this is my escape from the day job. However, I’m making an exception today because of a powerful statement that I have received from Donal and Liz Jevens.

Cadet David Jevens from Davidstown, Glynn, Co Wexford, and Captain Derek Furniss (32), from Dublin, died when their PC-9M aircraft crashed while on a military training exercise on October 12, 2009, in Co Galway.

The accident happened  just a day before David’s 22nd birthday. One of the brightest and best in the 27th Air Corps Cadet Class he was due to receive his wings in December 2009.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) carried out an investigation into the tragic accident, but the publication of this report has been delayed by an “interested party”, ultimately requiring an intervention from Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, which led to the report finally being released this morning.

The sole purpose of the investigation is the prevention of aviation accidents and incidents – not to apportion blame or liability.

Donal Jevens and his wife Liz have known the facts of the accident since a meeting with the AAIU in August 2010, but were prevented from discussing them (with anyone, even close family members) before the report was published – something which has proved a heavy burden for them.

“We want it to be known what happened our son. We find it very, very difficult that we can’t defend his honour,” Donal had told me previously. They can now defend the honour of the young Cadet and hopefully it will bring their family some small measure of solace.

You can read the AAIU report for yourself here. It is a quite technical 85-page report detailing all the circumstances surrounding the accident. I will have an extensive news report based on its findings in tomorrow’s Wexford People newspaper.

The statement from Donal and Elizabeth Jevens is below the photo of the couple at their son’s funeral.

The statement is about the death of their son and the effect it has had on his loved ones – compounded by the effect of the delay of the publication of the report. Ultimately, it’s a statement about David himself and his parents’ great love for him.

Donal and Liz Jevens

On October 13, 1987, David Jevens began life’s journey, a journey which ended tragically and abruptly on October 12, 2009.
We, his parents, have to face the almost impossible reality of not growing old with our first born child and that all the possibilities and dreams, that any parent would have for their son, will not be realised.
His brother, Christopher, and sister, Sarah, have lost a lifetime with their big brother, their mentor, their friend and their idol.
David’s girlfriend, Niamh, has lost a future of hopes, dreams and joy with David.
All David’s relations and friends have lost his friendship, his companionship and his caring and outgoing nature.
David should not be gone from us, he had his life to live, he had his dreams, aspirations and future to look forward to. All these were so cruelly taken away from him. For this reason, we just don’t feel sorrow and loss for ourselves, we feel it so much for our David.
The loss of our son David in such circumstances is a big enough cross for us to carry, but for the past 17 months, Liz and I have carried a far bigger burden.
We alone have had to live with the exact circumstances of David’s death without being able to share it with anyone.
Getting up in the morning to carry this burden is something that no parent should have to endure. In the past 12 months we have been faced with totally unnecessary delays in the process of the safety investigation.
This was the result of many attempts to frustrate the process, alter the facts and deny our son a hearing of the inevitable truth. This is something that should never be allowed to happen again.
It is our family’s sincere hope that lessons are learned from this report. We hope that changes are made so that something like this will never be repeated, so that no other parents have to endure the suffering of the loss of a son or daughter under such avoidable circumstances.
David achieved all his goals in life while showing humility and caring for others. He was an extremely proud and dedicated member of the Irish Defence Forces and the Irish Air Corps, he wore his uniform with immense pride.
It was more than just a career to him it was a true vocation. He was a dedicated, willing and committed servant of this country.
Cadet David Jevens will forever be enshrined in our memories, the memories of his many friends and his colleagues in the Defence Forces for all the right reasons.
Not a single moment goes by that he is not in our thoughts. At his grave a candle burns day and night, this is not just his memory, but for our pride in him and our love of him.
Anyone who knew David would have known that he would do the same for any of us given the circumstances.
The Air Corps motto “Forfaire agus Tairiseact” translates as “vigilant and loyal”, no greater or simpler words could encapsulate Cadet David Jevens’ character.

Super Ted

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

This post is all about sharing ideas. I spend a lot of time on the Internet, as, probably, do you.

But how much of that is quality time?

If we take the magnificent and most quotable Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement as our guide, I’d say I spend a lot of my time online reading about or discussing events and people, whether that’s Waterstone’s removing their apostrophe (terrible) or Liverpool’s Stewart Downing (He cost £20 million and still hasn’t a single goal or assist this season, but he does have one arrest – also terrible).

And then there’s Facebook, the great black hole of “average” and “small”, which can easily swallow you up. I find Twitter a tad more enlightened!

But, I do spend quite a bit of my online time with ideas too, whether that’s reading about or discussing them (I just checked my Twitter account to verify my claim and I have also been sharing a lot of ideas I’ve been reading about lately on there!).

There are some fantastic resources online and I intend to share some that I have come across and use with you in the weeks and months ahead.

I’m going to start with one of the biggest and best: Ted.

Now Ted is so successful that many of you will have heard of it and some of you will frequent it. But, if you don’t stop in every now and again or you’ve never heard of it then you’re missing out!

I would urge everyone to bookmark it. Create a new folder called “Ideas” and starting filling it up with great sites focused on ideas (I’ll help you out there).

Ted, in its own words, is about “ideas worth spreading”. It’s completely free and provides “riveting talks by remarkable people”. This is another claim I can happily verify. Some evidence here: they are short videos, please give at least a couple of them a go:

ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

rory_sutherland_life_lessons_from_an_ad_man.html (included especially for all you PR/marketing/Advertising types!)

sheila_nirenberg_a_prosthetic_eye_to_treat_blindness.html

dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html

bart_weetjens_how_i_taught_rats_to_sniff_out_land_mines.html

I have watched a lot of Ted Talks at this stage and the great thing about them – apart from being hugely interesting, educational and entertaining – is that they are relatively short (the vast majority are 18 minutes or under, some are only a few minutes) and they are very accessible.

It’s not a site designed for academics, it’s a site designed for everyone. Perhaps the best thing about Ted is that learning about all those ideas can help get your own creative juices flowing and give you the kickstart you need to start coming up with some great ideas of your own.

If you watch the videos they will certainly give you a new perspective on many issues and even change your thinking, if you’re open to it.

It’s a word I don’t use often, but many of the Ted Talks are simply inspirational. At worst, they are merely engaging and interesting. So it’s not much of a risk watching one!

Ted started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment and Design. To say it’s broadened its remit since then would be putting it mildly! Business, Science, Culture, Arts, Entertainment… there are many broad themes containing talks and ideas of all kinds.

Helpfully, there’s also a Best of the Web section featuring those great videos out there that didn’t come through Ted. Like this one with Steve Jobs:

steve_jobs_how_to_live_before_you_die.html

What really got me excited about Ted (again) today was reading about Ted 2012 “Full Spectrum”. It sounds like a dodgy action movie sequel starring a middle-aged Irish man, but it’s not.

You see Ted is “in the midst of a dramatic reinvention of the ancient art of the spoken word”.

How so? Well “Full Spectrum” refers to the “rich use of multiple technologies, formats and approaches for the most powerful possible impact on an audience”.

The speakers they have secured this year are amazing and “Full Spectrum” promises to be spectacular. The Journal.ie gives you a flavour of the speakers here  and the full list is here.

So, finally, I challenge you to try Ted for 30 days!

matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days.html

Celebrating a century

Jane Fortune at home in Ballygarrett

“I’m nearly a week into my second hundred years now,” Jane Fortune told me with a grin as I wished her a happy birthday at her home in north Wexford this morning.

Time doesn’t stand still for any of us – even when we reach the ripe old age of 100 it seems.

Jane, of Parkannsley, Ballygarrett, has had no less than four birthday parties already. The cards, of which there have been hundreds so far, continue to pour through the letterbox every day.

There was a letter of congratulations from President of Ireland Michael D Higgins too. This is a momentous occasion in almost everyone’s eyes, everyone that is except Jane.

“’I never liked a fuss and I never liked being in a crowd,” said Jane, though she admitted to enjoying her birthday parties, particularly the big family gathering in Sean Og’s of Kilmuckridge last weekend. where guests included her great great grandchildren.

Jane was the youngest of seven children born to Richard Quinsey and Ellen Bolger and is the last surviving member of that family. She has been predeceased by her husband Michael, who died in 1959, and four of her seven children.

I’ll have a full, feature-length interview with Jane in next week’s Wexford People, New Ross Standard, Enniscorthy Guardian and Gorey Guardian if you’d like to learn a little about her life and times.

It was very interesting – and a lot of fun – to meet her today, along with her grandchildren Michael, a well-known artist, and Bernadette.

I told Jane that when someone who is 100-years-old is interviewed everyone always wants to know what their “secret” is.

‘”Plenty of hunger, hardship and hard work,’” she quickly replied.

I’m letting you know just in case any of you thought adding porridge or broccoli to your diet was going to do it!

Jane hard at work in years gone by.

Jane possesses great wit, warmth and a remarkable memory. She still has an active social life and keeps busy in general. There’s a knitting project she keeps meaning to get back to once she gets new wool.

I’ll share one story from earlier on that will give you some idea of the this remarkable lady’s spirit.

When I arrived at her home (a traditional, two-up, two-down cottage that she shares with seven cats) accompanied by Michael she wasn’t worried about 100th birthday parties or interviews, she was mainly wondering where her rake was.

Michael had borrowed it and forgotten to return it again, but, on the back-foot,  he told her she couldn’t have been in that much of a hurry for it.

‘”I want to clean up all the leaves and bits outside,” she told him. A keen gardener, Jane also grows her own vegetables in the garden behind her home, from potatoes to onions and plenty in between, including the Wexford favourite: strawberries.

Jane, noting how things have moved on, recalled a time when she would have to cut the ‘”meadow’”, the large green area behind her home, with a clippers. It would take a number of visits – before and after a hard day’s work – before it would be completely done.

Michael, even though he knew better, then asked his grandmother – with more than a hint of mischief – if she reckoned she could still clip the hedge outside her home.

‘”I could,’” she assured him. “And I could clip that old hair too,’” she added swiftly, sizing up the black locks reaching for his shoulder with a twinkle in her eye.

Jane Fortune, who was born on January 6, 1912.

Jane Fortune

Animal cruelty continues as legislation gathers dust

One of two surviving Shih Tzu dogs that were rescued from “horrendous conditions” in Wexford last Friday.

From beasts we scorn as soulless,
In forest, field and den,
The cry goes up to witness
The soullessness of men.
~M. Frida Hartley

THE ISPCA is calling on Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to sign the Dog Breeding Establishments Act into law, following the latest case of animal cruelty by a breeder uncovered in Co Wexford.

Four dogs in “horrendous condition” were seized from a small breeder from an area just outside Wexford town last weekend, with one of them having to be put down.

Gardai in Wexford were called to accompany the WSPCA to the home of the breeder last Friday and a Garda spokesman said they found four dogs living in very poor conditions.

The Garda spokesman said that they were in a very small shelter, with a small run and that there was ‘a significant amount of faeces’ in it, while the dogs themselves were in very poor health.

It’s understood the Wexford SPCA was tipped off by a woman in Dublin who bought a Shih Tzu puppy from the Wexford breeder recently only to find later – when she brought it to her vet – that it had lungworm and rickets. It was a pup from one of the dogs seized.

Barbara Bent, Honorary Secretary of the ISPCA, said the dogs, a Labrador and three Shih Tzus, were taken from the breeder, but one of the Shih Tzus had to be put down it was in such poor health.

The other two had to be completely shaved and receive veterinary treatment for a range of issues. ‘Their skin was in a very bad way,’ said Ms Bent.

‘Wexford continues to produce many of the little, high-maintenance breeds and they are kept in dreadfully unacceptable conditions to sell to unsuspecting members of the public, who sadly only realise the plight of their newly-acquired puppies once they have been paid for and taken to their vet to be checked,’ she said.

‘Ignorance is frequently used as an excuse for such neglect, but greed and indifference would be a more suitable description of the actions of these breeders,’ said Ms Bent.

Ms Bent said that the ISPCA is now ‘urgently pleading’ with the government to ‘be pro-active and enact the dog breeding regulations’.

She said that the bill has been through the Dail and the Seanad and all that’s left now is for Environment Minister Phil Hogan to sign it into law.

‘This legislation is gathering dust on a shelf somewhere while lovely little dogs continue to suffer at the hands of uncaring breeders,’ said Ms Bent.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said that the ‘commencement of the Dog Breeding Establishments Act (2010) is awaiting the passage of the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill, which is currently before the Oireachtas’.

‘The Welfare of Greyhounds Bill is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It is intended that the two bills will commence simultaneously,’ he said.

Wexford’s time to shine

Dancers April Dowdall (16), and Gavin Byrne (16) and their "Butler" Patrick O'Connor (17) getting in some rehearsal time at Curracloe beach ahead of their performance in the Oyster Lane Theatre Group production of Disney’s "‘Beauty and the Beast", running from October 24 to 30 during the Wexford Fringe Festival.

It’s that time of the year again in Wexford, when the town comes alive like no other.

You can already sense it now – the Opera Festival is almost here. In a matter of days the hotels will be full and the streets will be buzzing again from early in the morning until late at night.

Anticipation is building ahead of Friday night’s launch, with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny coming to town to do the honours on the quay. Mr Kenny will be one of just many visitors to Wexford during the festival, which runs from Friday, October 21, to Saturday, November 5.

Tickets are selling very well for the Opera Festival’s main events and almost 40 per cent of those tickets are going to people who live overseas, highlighting the popularity of this internationally renowned festival, now in its 60th year.

It’s estimated that the festival will attract some 20,000 visitors and give the Wexford area an economic boost of somewhere in the region of €8 million, which is hugely significant for a relatively small town. People won’t just come from abroad, they will come from all over Ireland. The locals will be out in force too.

On that note, it is worth pointing out that Wexford Opera Festival was founded by a small group of volunteers and only became the renowned international event it is today through the hard work, enthusiasm and vision of Wexford people working for no personal profit.

The spirit of volunteerism that existed in 1950 is not just alive and well in Wexford, it remains essential to pull off the smooth running of the Opera Festival,  possibly even more so these days given the scale of it, and a huge band of locals will once again be lending a hand this year.

Everyone knows the importance of the festival and, it seems, everyone enjoys it too. The town is completely transformed and – even in recessionary times – the mood is lifted. You can’t put a price on that.

The Irish Independent had a nice piece on the festival last weekend, talking to Nora Liddy, whose father was a member of the founding committee, and the festival’s current Artistic Director David Agler.

The fun begins on Friday with the launch on the quay, which is always punctuated by a spectacular fireworks display. Mr Kenny is set to officially launch the 60th Wexford Opera Festival at 7 p.m. with the fireworks display set to begin at 7.30 p.m.

The entertainment on the quayfront begins at 4.30 p.m. and there are a number of great acts set to entertain the huge crowd expected to gather for the occasion, including Cork City Ballet, Oyster Lane Theatre Group (featured in the photo at the top of this post) and Extreme Rhythm.

Of course, the operas themselves also get underway at the magnificent Wexford Opera House (which just by itself is worth visiting if you’ve never been), with “La Cour de Célimène” beginning at 8 p.m. “Maria” follows on Saturday night and “Gianni di Parigi” on Sunday, with the three operas running until the close of the festival on Saturday, November 5.

You can check out Wexford Opera Festival’s site for full details on the three operas and all the other exciting events they have lined up this year, from lunchtime recitals to evening cabarets.

However, the great thing about Wexford Opera Festival is how inclusive it is and this is due, in no small part, to the Wexford Fringe Festival, which runs in tandem with it. You don’t have to like – or care about – opera to enjoy festival time in Wexford.

This year there are over 250 Fringe Festival events over 17 days (it runs just a little bit longer than the Opera Festival!) and there’s lots to look forward to.

The wide range of events include live gigs, theatrical performances, photography and art exhibitions, literary recitals, as well as dance, craft, children’s and street events… the list goes on for a while! You can check out exactly what’s on here or for updates follow the Fringe Festival on Twitter @wexfringefest

Personally, I can’t wait to get into town early on Saturday morning and start out on an Opera Festival Odyssey, taking my time as I make my way through the many excellent art and photography exhibitions, as well as enjoying all the weird and wonderful people and events you inevitably stumble upon when you wander through the historic and atmospheric streets of Wexford as it shows itself off to the world.

“Ambiguous loss is the worst cancer of all – not knowing where someone is”

Families from all over Ireland will gather in the beautiful and peaceful surroundings of Our Lady’s Island on Sunday (August 7) to pray for their missing loved ones.

The pilgrimage at the Island in south Wexford takes place from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and people are urged to go along and show their support for these brave families.

It follows last year’s moving and dignified ceremony, the first of its kind here. I attended it and spoke to some the families of missing people. None of them were praying for miracles, they were simply praying for closure

The outdoor Mass was celebrated less than a kilometre from the pub where Fiona Sinnott was last seen in February 1998. The 19-year-old was looking forward to her sister’s 21st birthday party when she disappeared. And her daughter’s first birthday.

A plaque in her memory was erected on a wall at the local cemetery to mark the tenth anniversary of her disappearance in 2008. It’s the closest thing her loving family have to a resting place.

Fiona’s family are one of many in Ireland who are living with such a terrible and tragic loss. Hopefully, they will find some solace in each other’s company on Sunday, as they did last year, but the acute pain they still feel, years after they lost their loved ones, does not dissipate with time.

Here’s the report I wrote for The Irish Times:

FAMILIES OF missing people travelled from around Ireland on Saturday to attend a Mass in a place of ancient pilgrimage.

The Mass at Our Lady’s Island in south Wexford was organised by Search for the Missing, which is headed by retired Garda diver Thomas Lavery.

Mr Lavery extended a special welcome to the families of missing people in attendance, which included relatives of Jo Jo Dullard from Kilkenny, Gussie Shanahan from Limerick and Philip Cairns from Dublin.

The largest representation by far was from a local family, the Sinnotts. The outdoor Mass was celebrated by Fr Brendan Nolan less than a kilometre from the pub Fiona Sinnott was last seen leaving in February 1998.

“Ambiguous loss is the worst cancer of all – not knowing where someone is,” said Mr Lavery.

During the Mass, seven homing pigeons were released by Mr Lavery with the help of Fiona Sinnott’s nephew, Johnny Walsh.

Mr Lavery said the two white pigeons represented a male and female missing person and the five blue pigeons were going to guide them home.

“We’re not looking for justice, we’re just looking for closure,” said Bob Shanahan, whose son Gussie went missing in Limerick more than 10 years ago.

“We just someone to come forward with information so we can give our son a decent burial,” said Mr Shanahan, who is offering a substantial reward for information that will lead to the recovery of his son’s remains.

He said he was glad so many had come to the Mass. “It was lovely because you can discuss it with other people. You are trying to console one another. It gets no easier, you are always hoping for closure,” he said.

Also still looking for closure are the Sinnott family. Fiona’s first cousin Gina Sinnott once again appealed, in a poem, for those with knowledge of what happened to the 19-year-old mother of one to do the right thing.

“How can you sleep with what you have done, with tears flowing down her face, her empty cries, her swollen eyes, only you know her resting place,” she read.

After Mass, Fr Nolan passed the cross to her and she led the families of missing people and the other pilgrims in attendance around the island, as they prayed for the return of their loved ones.