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Confusion, Household Charge, Mare’s Fart, Water & Swallows

“The Cushag”
By Josephine Kermode (1852–1937)
(Latter word ‘Cushag,’ is the Isle of Man name for Ragwort or Senecio jacobea)

Now the Cushag we know, must never grow, where the farmer’s work is done.
But along the rills, in the heart of the hills, the Cushag may shine like the sun.
Where the golden flowers, have fairy powers, to gladden our hearts with their grace.
And in Vannin Veg Veen, in the valleys green, the Cushags have still a place.
(Note: Vannin Veg Veen is Manx for “Dear Little Isle of Man.”)


If you had asked the question, “What is the definition of the word ‘Confusion,” some years ago, the standard reply usually used was “Father’s Day in Ballymun,” but this is no longer an accurate or valid definition, in our present fiscal climate.

The Local Government Management Agencies (LGMA) Chief Executive Paul McSweeney stated in the last few days that action will be taken in the coming months against homeowners who are non-compliant through failing to pay their €100 Household Charge, although the LGMA are reluctant to do so. “Letter number two will be going out now to landlords. Certainly we would expect that after three letters, some action is going to need to be taken,” he stated. “To be honest, we’re not really interested in doing that. We want to provide local services & taking people to court, or prosecuting them, that’s not the business we’re in. We are in the business of supplying local services to communities.”

In 2006, the total number of people resident in Tipperary on the work force numbered around 71,000, North & South of the County. Approximately 5,700 were listed as being unemployed in the same year. The work force has since risen to around 75,500, however the total out of work has risen to some 15,000, demonstrating an almost three-fold increase in the amount of people unemployed.

Mare’s Fart or Ragwort

Latest ‘Household Charge Data,’ shows that only around 4 out of every 10 householders in County Tipperary have paid this inequitable charge. By the time all the threatening letters are posted out, Mr Paul McSweeney may find that he has already spent the cost in stamps of what he has collected to-date, of Minister Phil Hogan’s unmerited, unjustifiable & inequitable tax.

Over 50% of Irish householders have now been forced to become criminals, since our present government wrote the Household charge into Irish legislation, thus allowing our court system to prosecute for non-compliance. Since the Government wielded the axe over North Tipperary Co. Council and other local authorities around the country, by cutting central funding by between 5% and 15%, it would appear Minister Hogan’s bullish approach and unjust new law is all set to create negative community reaction, to the level of recent Athens street riots.

Mare’s Fart or Ragwort

However all you “criminals,” out there, should take heart that such laws are rarely pursued, which brings me to the topic of  ‘Mare’s Fart,’ one of the alternative Scottish names given to the toxic alkaloid weed known as Common Ragwort because of the foul unpleasant smell or stench of its leaves or better known here in Ireland as Bualachains or Buachalan Buidhe.

In the Republic of Ireland, the Noxious Weeds Order (Thistle, Ragwort, and Dock) came into force on January 1st 1937, issued under the Noxious Weeds Act of 1936, which declared ragwort as a poisonous plant, requiring landowners to control its growth.

The various Ministers for the Environment, Community and Local Government over the years and the newer National Roads Authority (NRA) have failed to enforce this law in recent years and the question must now be asked “Why Minister have you failed to prosecute those who openly flout the Noxious Weeds Act ?  The reason of course is because most of our road side, untended ditches here in rural Ireland, for which you and your powerless local authorities hold responsibility to maintain, are now covered in noxious weeds, infecting “where the farmer’s work is done?”  We as motorists pay the highest road & fuel taxes in Europe, yet as taxpayers we have now grown silent, and accustomed to expecting nothing in return for these revenues.

Ragwort is toxic to cattle, horses, deer, goats, pigs and chickens. The poisonous substances in ragwort are toxic alkaloids (Jacobine, Jacodine and Jaconine) which cause the liver to accumulate copper, causing ill health and death. The toxicity of the poisons does not diminish following the death of the plant and dry dead ragwort remains highly toxic in hay or silage.

Water Charges

The topic of the €100 ‘Household Charge,’ law brings me to the topic of proposed future Water Charges / Tax, which this Household Charge was expected to fund. Minister Hogan believed, and wrongly, that we, the Irish drunken green hillbilly, found dwelling in the rural and scenic mountainous areas of Tipperary are stupid and we would happily rush out to “cut a stick to beat ourselves,” thus funding his long neglected little rusty pipe and water metre project.

For the past four years here in Ireland, with the exception of a couple of weeks in the month of May, it has continuously rained. Members of our farming community have invested heavily in slurry pits, on the advice and grant funding made available by the Department of Agriculture. The rules governing the spread of slurry state that if rain is forecast within any 24 hour period, such product should not be spread on our fields, as it will contaminate our under ground water tables.  I wonder how much slurry was spread on our green fields over the last 4 years?  Today Cork County Council has advised against swimming in seven beaches in the county, due to concerns about levels of the E.coli bacteria in the water. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, this run off water is the product Phil Hogan is going to deliver, at a price, to your kitchen sink shortly.


A farmer friend of mine has informed me that last week a spot check was carried out on his dairy farm by a Department of Agriculture Inspector. He was severely reprimanded for allowing 3 pairs of swallows to build their nests in his modern cow house and ordered, also, to install screens to prevent flies from coming through his shed doors. This farmers modern milking parlour ensures that no milk sees the light of day, between cow’s teats and a cooled bulk tank container, suitably installed in another building.

My farmer friend, of course, asked the questions “How am I going to get my cows and myself through these essential fly screens without accidentally allowing the odd fly to follow, and don’t our summer migrating swallows hugely control our fly population.” He was greeted with the standard reply nowadays, “The EU make the laws.”

Swallows are tolerated by humans because of their beneficial role as insect-eaters, and have, to our joy, accordingly readily adapted to nesting in and around human habitation. Species of swallow that are threatened with extinction are generally endangered due to the loss of their choosen habitat.

My earliest farming memories are of milking a cow by hand.  Theresa, as the animal was named, was to say the very least, distrusting and given the slightest encouragement took the opportunity to kick out, usually dipping one foot in the fresh, half filled milk bucket.  Leaving the bucket out of her reach and attempting to settle Theresa, gave our Tom, the resident cow house cat and no 1 mouser, the opportunity for a quick drink of the bucket’s contents. The bucket of milk was just strained into a churn and then sent to the local creamery. Never heard of anyone getting sick or being infected by E.coli bacteria.

Anyway you can all now see the reason why I stand so confused tonight and now fear that the lunatics may have taken over the asylum.

I will finish with a ‘Tip,’ for Tipperary hurling manager Declan Ryan as he sends our boys out on the field of play, against Kilkenny, in Croke Park tomorrow. To rile the lads up and put fire in their bellies, just before they proudly parade out of the dressing room, say the words “Phil Hogan,” and then step quickly back and let them loose.  Take it from me Declan, victory will be guaranteed.


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