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Dergvale Hotel worthy of a special place in GAA history

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One of the disadvantages of the convenient and spacious media centre in Croke Park is that there’s no need to return to the office after matches in the stadium. That walk used to bring us past the Dergvale Hotel in Gardiner Place and temptation beyond breaking point frequently meant quick pints to gather ourselves.

The premises has a big place in GAA history so it always felt appropriate that it should also have a place in the first draft of that history, which would be rattled out later in the afternoon.

This was admittedly a long time ago, pre-internet and when such work practices didn’t sound as outdated as sticking hot pokers into pots of ale.

Owners Gerry and Nancy Nolan could be forgiven for confining their interest in the GAA to the big match-day experiences, which have previously been compared to re-enactments of Rorke’s Drift, as waves of spectators fall on the premises but they have also proved conscientious curators of the hotel’s history.

For a couple of years in the late 19th century, 4 Gardiner Place was home to GAA founder Michael Cusack’s family and his academy, a school specialising in gearing candidates for the Victorian civil service examinations.

In this he was particularly successful. On January 5th 1884, The Irishman published the results of those attending his academy and stated, “Mr Cusack is the only grinder in Dublin who secured a pass at any of these examinations”. He was reported to be earning £1,500 per annum during the heyday of his school.

A plaque marking the site of the academy was unveiled on the weekend of the Centenary All-Ireland hurling final in 1984 – ironically the last time an All-Ireland wasn’t played at nearby Croke Park – but its significance goes beyond that.

Brother Seán MacNamara is the most zealous keeper of this flame. Happily still with us after his 94th birthday last month, he published The Man from Carron 15 years ago on the centenary of Cusack’s death and has lectured widely on the subject.

His research turned up, amongst other things, an original diary. The twin emphases of this work are to reinforce the central importance of Cusack to the both the GAA, which he founded, and the cause of Irish nationhood as well as to convert everyone to the view that the GAA’s birthplace was not Hayes’s in Thurles but another hotel, the Dergvale.

In 2010 the Dergvale unveiled a memorial to its famous previous occupant and screened a DVD, which was scripted and presented by Brother MacNamara. He pointed out that the letters inviting people to attend the inaugural meeting in Thurles on 1st November 1884, were sent from Gardiner Place on October 27th.

Croke Park is the most visible symbol of the GAA but in MacNamara’s view the stadium, rather than one of its stands, should have been named after Cusack but he has accepted that this is not going to happen at this stage. Since the centenary of the founder’s death, his presence has been amplified by the installation of Paul Ferriter’s fine sculpture just outside the GAA Museum.

November is the month for these reminiscences. Last Monday was the 137th anniversary of the GAA’s foundation in Thurles or its formal establishment to give Brother MacNamara’s case its due. Later this month will be the 114th anniversary of Cusack’s death.

Another less remarked on November event is the erection of a memorial in Dublin’s Deansgrange cemetery in the GAA’s 125th anniversary year of 2009. It was to commemorate Thomas St George McCarthy, a former rugby international and policeman, who was also one of those who attended the meeting in Hayes’s Hotel.

McCarthy is also remembered in the eponymous trophy presented for an annual match between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI. Largely forgotten up until the 125th celebrations, his cause was taken up by former Armagh captain Jarlath Burns.

Former teacher

“I was part of the Eames Bradley consultative group in the North, and as part of that we visited the RUC memorial garden, where Jim McDonald (formerly of the Police Authority of Northern Ireland) asked me had I ever heard of Thomas St George McCarthy. And I told him that I hadn’t,” said Burns in an interview at the time with this newspaper.

He was a hero for one year and then he was demonised after a few years. And a lot of us can identify with that

“Jim told me McCarthy was a founding member of the GAA and that he served in the RIC, but that had never been acknowledged by the GAA despite various attempts by the RUC to get the GAA to recognise him. So I said I would do something about that.”

McCarthy had met Cusack in the academy, according to The Man from Carron. The tutelage got the pupil into the RIC, which he joined in 1882, and he was stationed at Templemore two years later when his friendship with his former teacher brought him to Hayes’s Hotel.

Although Cusack later fell out with the GAA, there was a reconciliation before his death and for all his reputation for hot-headedness, his drive and ambition helped to establish the fledgling association.

On the centenary dedication of a the commemorative centre in Caron in 2006, former Clare manager Ger Loughnane spoke.

“What impressed me most was his tactical approach,” he said. “It was not ad hoc; it was a calculated approach. He brought in the three biggest forces as patrons. So he had Parnell, Davitt and Dr Croke onside. And how could it fail?

“It went on really well for two years and then in typical GAA fashion, there was a split. He was a hero for one year and then he was demonised after a few years. And a lot of us can identify with that.”

smoran@irishtimes.com

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German doctor faces charges after administering thousands of self-made vaccines

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A millionaire German doctor is facing criminal charges after vaccinating an estimated 20,000 people with a self-developed vaccine against Covid-19.

Some 200 people were queueing for a jab at the airport in the northern city of Lübeck on Sunday when police arrived and closed down the improvised vaccination centre.

A police spokesman said doctors had already administered about 50 vaccines: not from BioNTech or Moderna or another recognised producer, but a home brew by Dr Winfried Stöcker.

The controversial doctor, who is also the owner of Lübeck airport, insists his jab is 97 per cent effective against Covid-19.

Dr Stöcker was not present, did not administer vaccinations and faces no charges, according to his lawyer Wolfgang Kubicki, a leading member of Germany’s Free Democratic Party (FDP), which is part of Berlin’s new coalition government.

Lübeck state prosecutors see things differently. On Monday, they announced an investigation into four doctors, aged between 61 and 81, for involvement in the unauthorised vaccination centre.

Dr Stöcker may also face legal action for running an unlicensed vaccination campaign, which is considered a criminal offence under Germany’s Medicines Act. 

Contacted by the Bild tabloid, Dr Stöcker said he had not submitted his vaccine for approval because the process would “take too long and cost millions”.

“We have a responsibility to the patients, not the state, but the police stopped everything,” said the 74-year-old.

In May 2020 Dr Stöcker claimed to have developed a traditional vaccine – without any external assistance – similar to that used against tetanus, using inactive pathogen cells to activate the body’s immune system.

The doctor says he tested the jab on himself and some 100 volunteers before rolling out the vaccinations around the country. In total, he claims some 20,000 people have received a dose of his vaccine.

“Some 2,000 of them are under observation, no side effects were noted to date,” he said. “There were virus breakthroughs in 10 people.”

‘Lubecavax’

On his website, he says his “Lubecavax”, a three-dose vaccine, has proven highly effective. Some 376 friends and colleagues were vaccinated with the substance during the summer, he wrote, and “97 per cent developed high concentrations of antibodies against coronavirus”.

“In our view the ‘Lübeck vaccine’ is safe, effective and presumably the most suitable vaccine for children,” he adds in a blog post. “Doctors have the right to mix together compounds that they believe will help people.”

In this assertion he is drawing on a 2000 German constitutional court ruling which forbade federal authorities from prohibiting an experimental treatment of two doctors using stem cells.

News of the rogue vaccination has horrified German medical authorities. The Paul Ehrlich Institute, which is responsible for approval of medicines and vaccines in Germany, said on Monday it had offered Dr Stöcker assistance with testing in September and December of last year, but that he had not responded to the institute’s offers.

The hurdles to vaccination licensing “are deliberately high”, the institute added, “to ensure the maximum possible security for participants in clinical trials”.

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Denmark school closes due to suspected Omicron Covid-19 case

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Odense Municipality confirmed the closure in a statement on Monday after informing parents and pupils on Sunday evening.

The Danish Patient Safety Authority (Styrelsen for Patientsikkerhed) said on Monday morning that the case is suspected of being linked to the new Omicron variant.

READ ALSO: Denmark does not rule out new travel restrictions after Omicron variant detected

The authority recommends contact tracing up to “third” contacts, or people who have been in contact with suspected close contacts to the confirmed or “first” case.

Pupils and teachers in the same class as the confirmed or “first” case are considered “second” contacts, with close contacts to the class the “third” link.

People who fall into these categories are asked to isolate at home until they have tested negative on the fourth and sixth days since the potential contact.

The school is closed as of Monday while contact tracing is undertaken.



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Trees go to pot to ensure many festive returns

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Christmas trees aren’t just for Christmas, at least for the Cork business with a pot-grown tree initiative that sees householders rent their tree in early December and bring it back to the farm in early January, to be cared for all year around.

Colm Crowley from Glanmire says his 5ft trees, which are rented out for €40 a year, are a very sustainable way to celebrate Christmas.

Customers can rent or buy a living Christmas tree in a pot from Cork Pot Grown Christmas Trees. The rented ones are then taken back to the farm in Rosscarbery, west Cork, after the festive season.

“I started off with small pot-grown trees and I started selling them for €10 or €15 and a lot of customers were coming in asking, ‘have you anything bigger?’ It got me thinking that there was a market for bigger pot-grown Christmas trees.

‘Always alive’

“With the pot-grown trees, they are never dead. They are always alive. They continue to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide oxygen as well,” he says.

“They come with a care leaflet. The water would be the big one: making sure they have enough water but not too much because too much would cause root rot,” he says.

“I found that pot-grown trees are very big in America and it has started spreading to Germany and the UK. I knew that Irish people would love it.”

It takes 12-14 years to grow a Christmas tree from seed, with a lot of work involved in pruning, shaping and making the tree perfect.

“It is only used for four weeks. With the pot growns, we get to use the tree over and over. That said, cut Christmas trees are also very environmentally friendly because when a tree is cut in November, another one or two are planted in spring. With the pot growns, between November and spring that cycle continues, so for those few months the Christmas trees continue to take the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide oxygen.”

As rental trees will continue to grow throughout the year, Crowley is anticipating customers not recognising their tree when it is returned to them the following Christmas.

‘Exact same tree’

“They send me pictures looking for the exact same tree,” he says.“With the rentals, you are getting the same Christmas tree you liked and picked out. But it will have continued to grow. There is a lovely smell – you are bringing a bit of forest in your house.”

Crowley says the real Christmas tree business has grown hugely since he first started selling, from his mother Margaret’s house in Ballinlough, Cork city, in 1998 before moving to bigger premises.

Last year was particularly buoyant for sales as families sought to create a festive atmosphere during the pandemic.

“Sales right across the country were probably up around 50 per cent. People wanted a bit of happiness. They needed cheering up.”

Customers are encouraged to name their trees, with the two most popular names being “Spruce Springsteen” and “Woody”.

The father of two adds that he couldn’t survive the December whirlwind without the hard work of wife Jacqui and mother-in-law Rose.



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