Eyebrows were raised yesterday in the county over leaked plans for one of its councillors to visit Florida as part of a fact find on behalf of East Tyrone District Council.
Copy travel documents showed that recently-elected mid-Ulster Councillor Seamie ‘Red Boy’ McCloy, intends to spend three weeks in Florida next month at a cost of £8,500 at the taxpayer’s expense, conducting a feasibility study on importing bog and peat back to Tyrone rather than producing it locally.
Challenged on the abundance of it which already sits in the county, McCloy retorted,
“Jaysus. That’s the whole point of the visit, isn’t it? How do we know whether it’s feasible without going to see it? We need a bird’s eye view of the area to assess potential for excavation. And if the best way of doing that is from the top of a 300-foot high mega-rollercoaster, then that’s just pure coincidence. Getting bog from America might actually be cheaper than producing it locally. Or something like that”.
The colourful councillor has continually courted controversy since making the headlines in 2012 when he was found in the ladies’ cloakroom of the Council offices wearing an odd number of socks. He has since been embroiled in an embarrassing incident at a farm near Windmill which he claimed was simply him ‘being overly-friendly with a labrador’.
“It’s all nonsense”, said an angry McCloy, thumping his desk so hard that several bottles of suntan lotion fell off. “And anyway, the judge ruled not proven, so go and feck. I’ve dedicated my life to Tyrone, trying to raise it up to the standards of the nice Ulster counties like Derry, Sligo, Monaghan and suchlike. That’s why I need to go to Florida for three weeks. Or four depending on the complexities. And the weather”.
Questioned about whether the Galbally man was going on the trip to get away from the controversy around some of the decisions he has made since moving into office, McCloy was uncompromising. Wearing an enormous foam hand and jabbing the big sticky-out finger to make his point, he said,
“Listen. Do you think sat in a jumbo for 8 hours is going to be fun? The only movie they’re showing is ‘Les Miserables’, and I can’t stand the Germans. I’ve made mistakes in the past. I’ll admit it. But all I’m trying to do is modernise the county. And if ‘Naked Tuesday’ is a wee bit too much for some of thon puritans in the East Tyrone Council offices, then they should wise up. The Florida trip is pure business, nothing else. I’m certainly not looking forward to it. I’ve got a mountain of work to do. And I’ve only got three sleeps to go before I leave”.
The councillor also faced criticism earlier this year for going to New York City on 17 March to explore the possibility of the importation of Guinness to the county.
A BBC documentary on economic hardships in Ireland has uncovered a previously hidden phenomenon surrounding the eating habits of youngsters going to Brocagh, Aughamullan and Kingsisland schools. The TV show initially wanted to focus on emigration in the area after it emerged that the entire Derrytresk football team are moving to the States soon. However, they soon discovered, by accident, that primary and some secondary school children are being reared on turf in order to beat the recession’s effect in the east of the county. Executive producer Scunthorpe Kilpatrick was taken aback by the discovery:
“We knew something was up when we filmed a few homes going about their normal daily routines. At lunch time, the majority of families appeared to be boiling large industrial pots of what looked like a mixture of moss and turf, slapping it on to plates. After eating, I noticed the children had really black teeth for a while. When we asked what it was they were eating, they passed it off as ‘pate’ which turned out in standard English to be ‘peat’. They were stewing it, boiling it, frying it, baking it, toasting it and sometimes just snacking on it raw. They seemed quite happy.”
It wasn’t until they filmed the children in school that they became aware of the dependance on the natural commodity.
“Even though there were plenty of options in the canteens like lasagne, Haribos or burgers, the children seemed to prefer the turf sandwiches. It appears that what initially seemed like an effort to cut costs is now a staple diet by choice. It’s quite remarkable. I’ve seen children dander out up the ramparts, sit down and chew away on the banks. It’s like a real-life Willy Wonka story.”
Local historian, Felix Hughes, claims it’s the circle of life:
“Every 100 years ago, people down this way rediscover the delicacy that is lowland turf. This usually lasts for about 10 years or so until they go too far and start drinking the water in the ditches and someone gets an awful dose of the skitter. But that’s another five years away in this cycle.”
Hughes was quick to point out that the turf is for local consumption only and that anyone seen trying to eat the turf from foreign places like Coagh, Eskra or Portugal will be shot from a distance with an air rifle.