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Strong home challenge mounted early on at British Open

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Not quite a beast, not by any means, as the St George’s links hardly bared its teeth at all in the opening round of the 149th British Open Championship where a plethora of sub-par scoring was enjoyed by those who set off in the quest for the Claret Jug.

Some, though, did stumble – among them defending champion Shane Lowry early on who suffered back-to-back bogeys in his opening two holes only to steady himself – as if to emphasis that the consistent northerly wind would indeed add to the examination.

And, on the most southerly of all English links on the rota, a strong home challenge was mounted as Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett and Jack Senior joined South African Justin Harding in posting the early clubhouse leads with rounds of three-under-par 67s.

For Willett, the 2016 Masters champion, his return to form so soon after undergoing surgery for a ruptured appendix only last month was hugely impressive: “Yeah, played well all day really. I put the ball in play, gave ourselves the ability to not have to hack around in the rough too many times,” was Willett’s succinct view of a strong start.

Sullivan, who has been tweaking his swing of late, said: “I felt really quite composed out there today in terms of tee to green, felt good and holed some good footage out there, which is something we’ve been working quite hard on the last few weeks to get better at, and it’s nice to see it coming to fruition on the golf course.”

Jordan Spieth overcame an early bogey on the third to click into gear, picking six birdies – including a run of four in a row from the fifth to turn in 32 – to move to five under on his round through 16 holes into a share of the on-course lead with South African Louis Oosthuizen (through 14 holes).

Darren Clarke, the champion on its last staging at Sandwich in 2011, returned from the Champions Tour stateside to start with a one-over-par 71.

Finding only eight greens in regulation, Clarke used his short game and putter to good effect: “I actually hit the ball pretty nicely but I missed a couple of fairways by two inches and all of a sudden when you’re in that you’re trying to run the ball up or you’re aiming away from flags to not make any stupid mistakes.

“Consequently my stats may have been somewhat misleading today, and frequently that’s what will happen on links golf. But overall I was quite pleased with the way I actually hit the ball and the way I played,” said the Northern Irishman .

Lowry was one-over par on his round through 14 holes while US Open champion Jon Rahm in the same group was two-over. Pádraig Harrington had a horrible start with a double bogey on the opening hole and was three-over through four holes.

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Property group clashes with council over Dundrum residential development

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The owners of Dundrum Town Centre have clashed with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council over demands for more large apartments as they advance fast-track plans for a major residential development in the south Dublin village.

Property group Hammerson and insurer Allianz, which operate the new shopping complex in the area, have been in talks with An Bord Pleanála to build up to 889 apartments on the site of the old Dundrum shopping centre.

Their company, Dundrum Retail Ltd Partnership, has told the council it should scrap new requirements for “a minimum of three-plus bedroom units” in large apartment blocks that are included among proposed amendments to its draft county development plan.

In a submission last week to the council, the company said the new guidelines were in conflict with official rules that said there should be no minimum requirement for apartments with three or more bedrooms.

According to the company, the justification for the guidelines was based on fast-track strategic housing development permissions in the council area and “evidence” from certain boroughs in London.

“[Dundrum Retail Ltd Partnership] submit that the logic underpinning the policy is flawed and is not a basis for imposing prescriptive unit mix ratios on a countywide basis,” it said.

“The draft development plan needs to be amended to remove the very prescriptive requirement for apartments with three or more bedrooms and to allow applicants to make the case for a particular unit mix based on the particular attributes of local areas where a different mix might be appropriate.”

The company also told the council that proposed amendments to the development plan presented “contradictory or ambiguous objectives” in relation to proposals for a community, cultural and civic centre in the area.

Such objections were included among 106 submissions on the draft plan in a public consultation which closed last week. Numerous other developers and the Irish Home Builders Association lobby group also opposed the measures, some saying they would delay or prevent the delivery of new homes.

Asked about the submissions, the council said the response to any issues raised would be set out in a report by its chief executive to elected members which would be published. “It will be a decision of the elected members to adopt the plan and it is anticipated that this will take place in early March 2022. The plan will then come into effect six weeks later,” the council said.

Cost increase

In its submission, the Irish Home Builders Association said its members were concerned that the introduction of “further onerous standards” would increase the cost of delivering new homes and their price.

“This at a time when construction costs are already under huge inflationary pressure and affordability is a major issues for most home buyers,” said James Benson, director of the association.

“A key concern of the home-building sector in respect of the new plan is a lack of consistency with national planning guidelines/standards, which may be considered to be contrary to recent Government policy which sought to bring a greater extent of standardisation to national planning standards.”

The submission added: “The key concerns relate to the locational restriction and unit mix requirements for [build-to-rent] schemes, other standards for apartment developments which are more onerous/restrictive than the Government’s… guidelines, and the requirement for early delivery of childcare facilities in residential developments, all of which have the potential to impact adversely on the viability and affordability of housing in the county.”

Another builder, Park Developments, said in a submission the draft sought “more onerous policies, objectives and standards” that would have a direct effect on housing supply. “We are already seeing the impact of the chronic shortage in the supply of housing on the affordability of rental accommodation and homeownership.”

Castlethorn Construction said the blanket imposition of three-bedroom requirements “can only serve to militate against development of apartments” in the council area. It said the cost of delivering three-bed apartments was “very significant”, adding that demand was “not evident by reference to market sentiment, estate agents’ advice” and national policy imperatives.

Developer Hines, which has major interests in the Cherrywood strategic development zone, said in its submission that the logic underpinning requirements for more three-bedroom units was flawed.

“While making the case that recent development has been weighted towards one- and two-bed units, it fails to recognise that three-bed semi-detached and detached houses remain the predominant typology within [Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown] and that the [strategic housing development] permissions provide a much-needed mix of housing types within the county to redress this balance within the county.”


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Laicisation of Catholic priest in Tipperary causes disappointment and anger in parish

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Standing in the family’s hardware store on Main Street in Carrick-on-Suir, Fiona Hearn remembers how Fr Richard Geoghegan gave her son First Holy Communion 15 years ago.

Today, Geoghegan is no longer a priest, following the Vatican’s decision to issue a laicisation order, with the history of the story up to that point a subject of disagreement.

The former parish priest at Ballyneale and past curate at St Nicholas Parish in Carrick-On-Suir announced on Twitter last week that he had been officially “dismissed by Rome” on January 7th.

“My Bishop was happy to dispense me. I’m a good man. And he talks about the shortage of vocations,” said Geoghegan, who entered the seminary in 1987 aged just 19, and he was ordained six years later.

The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Phonsie Cullinan, whose diocese extends over both the borders of Tipperary and Cork, has rejected Geoghegan’s charges.

Fr Richard Geoghegan
Fr Richard Geoghegan

Geoghegan had petitioned Pope Francis for laicisation last March and it was granted on December 15th, said the bishop: “I wish to acknowledge and thank Richard for his pastoral ministry over the years and wish him well for the future.”

Geoghegan came under fire from conservative Catholics following an appearance on hotelier Francis Brennan’s RTÉ show Grand Tour of Vietnam in 2017, wherein he performed in drag as singer Shirley Bassey, wearing a blonde wig and lipstick.

The TV appearance might not have done him any favours, Hearn accepts. “He is only human at the end of the day. He is well loved here in town. We’d love to have him back. I’d have nothing but deep respect for him,” she says.

“He is a real people’s person. Some older priests could be aloof. You couldn’t meet a nicer, more down to earth man. I think he has been pretty hard done by the Pope and the bishop.”

Hearn is not alone in her feelings, with many members of the tight-knit Catholic churchgoing community in Carrick-On-Suir and surrounding districts still shocked and disappointed by the turn of events.

Despite the bishop’s declaration that Geoghegan had himself applied to be laicised, the Association of Catholic Priests’ Tim Hazelwood describes his treatment as “inappropriate, unreasonable and unacceptable”.

In 2020, Hazelwood accompanied Geoghegan to a meeting with Bishop Cullinan, and his secretary.

“It was obvious from the meeting that he wanted Richard to apply for laicisation,” Hazelwood says. “That’s when Richard said he would have liked to be a curate…Richard found it difficult being on his own in a parish. He needed support,” Hazelwood adds.

“Obviously, the bishop had made up his mind,” says Hazelwood, “I was shocked, really because the majority of bishops would be supportive, but what I was hearing was really a put down.”

Geoghegan declined to comment when contacted.

Former parishioner, John Nolan said, “The Church is crying out for priests and is leaving a good man go. He was friends with everyone, an absolute gentleman. Anyone having a wedding here would look for him. I think it is all down to Bishop Phonsie. ”

Describing him as “a fantastic priest”, Carrick-on-Suir butcher Morris Whelan says was a great man. “He knew everyone by name. You’d meet him once and he knew your name forever. He was involved in the parish in every part of it.”

Local Sinn Féin councillor David Dunne remembers Geoghegan’s kindnesses during his mother’s illness.

“Everyone recognised him for the programme he did with Francis Brennan…It was fairly flamboyant and wasn’t in keeping with the Church, but it was typical of Fr Richard,” said Cllr Dunne, “He was always friendly, outgoing and is well-regarded. It is a major loss.”

Describing the former priest’s ability to engage, Luke Foran says: “One of my favourite memories of him is my brother’s Communion where he had all the kids gathered around and Richard’s phone rang, and who was on the phone only ‘Jesus’.

“You should have seen the kids’ faces drop. It was brilliant and he enthralled and captivated the whole place. He was ahead of his time. Richard humanised the priesthood and was a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Besides the memories, there is anger, too. Ashling Ní Fháthaigh said: “When he was saying mass the church was a lot fuller with a younger congregation. (He) was liked by so many and was punished for that.”

Believing that the church’s hierarchy has questions to answers, Margaret Croke says: “A church without compassion and understanding who can so readily dismiss a person who was so dedicated for so many years to its flock and to God really needs to change.”

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IRA victims will need to be persuaded to vote for a united Ireland, says Eastwood

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Many people who were victims of IRA violence during the Troubles will have to be persuaded to vote for a united Ireland, the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said.

A lot of unionist people had “serious hurt and pain because of what the IRA did”, he maintained, as the Bloody Sunday families had been hurt and traumatised by the actions of the British army 50 years ago.

Mr Eastwood told a meeting of Ireland’s Future in Derry that unionists will need a lot of persuading of the merits of a united Ireland.

“We have to be realistic about this. We have to convince a lot of people who don’t currently want to vote for a united Ireland to vote for it,” he said.

“I don’t believe we can do this without dealing with the proper legacy of the past. It has to be about the future, but it does not go away. We have learned that after 20 years of the Good Friday Agreement, it affects the current politics and will infect this debate in ways that I don’t think we are prepared for.

“I believe in truth and justice. I want it from the British Government and I want it from the IRA as well.”

Opportunity

Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney said his party was committed to addressing the legacy of the past.

“In the context of a new constitutional arrangement on this island, we need to put reconciliation and healing at the core of our political and civic institutions,” he said.

“Irish unity is the defining issue of our generation. We need to find common ground across the greatest cross-section of political and civic society. This is going to be a societal endeavour. Politicians cannot and should not deliver constitutional change.”

Irish Examiner journalist Aoife Grace Moore, whose uncle Patrick Doherty, was murdered on Bloody Sunday, said her life was shaped by the Troubles though she is part of the ceasefire generation.

“It is up to my generation – we have the opportunity to make a real difference in the North,” she said.

“I am not really interested in a conversation about flags and anthems. That is completely missing the point. I would like to talk about giving young people better outcomes and lifting them out of poverty.

“The brain drain of people from the young people leaving the North is devastating and it was not supposed to be this way.”

Queens University Belfast Prof Colin Harvey told the meeting that Ireland’s Future will be publishing a major document presently about the health services in both jurisdiction.

He has been criticised by some Brexit-supporting unionists for advocating for a united Ireland, but he said academics should be involved in the major issues facing society.

“I have a very strong belief that academics should not just sit in libraries and they should not be fearful for doing so,” he said.

“We want to get this right. Nobody wants a situation where where people are painting lies on the sides of buses. People want an evidenced-based planned approach to constitutional change.”

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