Bundoran '01 - Senior Seminar

2nd - 4th November, 2001


Members of our centre in Castlerahan have being attending the annual International seminars, since 1994 in London. In 1996 we, along with some other young Pioneers in the Kilmore Diocese ran the very successful Youth seminar in Bundoran. During the past few years, we have been hearing the comments that 'Cavan' should host it again, and this year we thought 'Why not?'

Since early this year, we in Castlerahan PTAA have been planning for this weekend. Now, we can look back and think "It was all worth it".

In the early weeks and months of the preparation, we all had to deal with the "Foot and Mouth" crisis. Although this interrupted our preparations, the main fear was that, depending on how long the 'precautions' lasted, we might have had to postpone the entire weekend. For this reason, fundraising, booking speakers and indeed advertising was difficult. Thankfully, as time went by, infected cases grew fewer, gears started turning, and the preparation stages gained full speed.

As we needed to make up for lost fundraising time, we decided to run a 'Lotto Syndicate'. This consisted a total of 2400 lines the price of 100 in the National Lottery's 'Lotto Draw' for each syndicate member. We sent out the usual mail shots to those whose addresses we could acquire, including pioneer secretaries, previous delegates, and other friends we have met through the Pioneers.


The Weekend

Suddenly, Friday 2nd November was upon us! We set off for Bundoran early, and by 4pm we had everything ready to go, as the first two delegates walked through the doors of the Allingham Arms hotel. The weekend had started. With most of the delegates for the weekend registered, we sat down at 8pm for our first meal and the weekend in the Saimer Room. This was to be the location for most of out activities over the weekend. Chairperson Amanda Lynch then officially opened the seminar. Gary O’Callaghan then took us through a CDROM prepared for each delegate. This CD is the first Pioneer article that has been produced on this media. The CD contains information about the weekend, the Pioneer Association, it’s different committees and annual events. It also included some information on 12 of the most popular drugs in Ireland.

Amanda then introduced our first speaker, Kevin Heery. In his speech, Kevin inspired us with his depiction of the ceiling of the church in Maynooth Collage. He also quoted some of Pope John Paul’s statements. Kevin then answered a number of questions from the audience, including the confirmation pledge. Louise McManus also commended him for following his path into priesthood.

Following Kevin, we all moved into the rear section of the Saimer Room for some entertainment. Gillian Lynch hosted a game of quickdraw. 16 players were picked at random from our list attending, and formed four teams of four. The object of the game was to illustrate a title from one of four categories, Films, Songs, TV and Famous people. Each team was given two minutes to guess what the person from their team was drawing for two points. If after the time was up, they had not guessed correctly, the other three teams had the opportunity to make a guess for one point. After four rounds, teams 2,3 and 4 were tied on seven points. Bridget Reilly, from Bohermeen PTAA was selected from the audience to draw a new title, to decide the winning team. After some time, team 2, comprising of Maisie, Christina, Marie and Deirdre guessed the correct answer, and won a box of chocolates each. We then returned to the main conference area for a disco, provided by Peter McEnroe. We danced and partied until the early hours of the morning.

After breakfast, the delegates were broken into five groups. These groups were then given some topics to discuss, along with any other items they felt should be addressed. The topics included were :-

    1. The Pioneer Magazine.
    2. The public image of the PTAA.
    3. The Pioneer Web-site (http://www.pioneertotal.ie).
    4. The Gradam Awards
    5. Pioneer activities.

When all the groups returned, Amanda chaired an open forum and collected the points from the groups. These points would be discussed at a later point in the weekend.

We then had a tea break, and returned for the second speaker, Peadar O’Flaherty from Hope House. Hope house is a centre for the treatment for people with a ‘chemical addiction’. Peadar, once a client of the centre, has now been a member of the staff for seven years, and off his addiction for nine. He spoke to us at length about what addiction meant, and the four stages it takes. He also explained how he, at the age of 13, first experimented with a chemical substance, petrol. He told us of his path through his addictions and recovery. We also heard of how Sr. Dolores and Sr.Attracta were given their name ‘the girls’. Peadar held everyone’s attention for his 90-minute speech, after which he answered some questions from the floor. Barra Cogan, Padraig McKeown and other delegates complemented him on his description of addiction. Lunch was next on the menu.

We returned then for some interesting talks given by Paul McDaid from the North Western Health Board, and Sgt. Paul Wallace. Paul Mc Daid spoke about Health Promotion strategies regarding alcohol. He highlighted some frightening statistics, from Irish and European studies regarding underage drinking. It showed that Ireland was ranked 1st and 2nd highest in different categories concerning regular and binge drinking among teenagers. He also emphasised how as part of the Drug Inter-agency Development Group (DIDG), the Pioneers could offer alternatives to teenagers. He said that thay encouraged all clubs to have a drug and alcohol policy. Paul Wallace then followed with a display of different illegal drugs, and explained how each was sold and their effects. Both speakers were thanked, and answered some questions on their respective topics. These included ‘drunk driving’, pub opening hours and government funding.

We then proceeded to a presentation on the activities from two members of the National Youth Committee, Anne Mulkeen and Dermot Fagan. They spoke about what the NYC done, and how they needed the provincial committees to be more active. The group was then divided by province, and asked to discuss how the pioneers could be improved on in their areas. The delegates were then recalled back to the main discussion area for an open forum to share their thoughts during these groups and the earlier speakers. A list of suggestions to be sent to Central Office was compiled. This list would be added to during the course of the weekend. These were: -


Local Centres


Central Office


After all these talks, the delegated were treated to a game of ‘Giant Twister’, hosted by Larry McGinn. Again, 12 randomly selected contestants stretched, twisted and tested their stamina in a game of absolute torture! After a gallant effort by Dermot Fagan, Marie Reilly eventually won when Dermot could no longer ‘hold his posture’. Marie was presented with a meal for two sponsored by the Allingham Arms. It was then free time for all to get ready for the ‘Royal Banquet’.

At 7pm, a hundred people sat down for ‘The Royal Banquet’ and the presentation of King and Queen of the Seminar. During dinner, we had two interesting speeches from Micheal Keane, Chairperson of the Ulster Council, and Fr. Micheal McGreil, Chairperson of the Board of Managment. Norbert Heart, president of Kilmore Diocese and Ray O’Connor, Assistant to the Central Director, Fr. Bernard J. McGuckian, also accompanied us. After the meal, the results of the King and Queen contest were revealed. Christopher Clarke, Duleek was crowned King, and Anna O’Reilly, Marino, Queen.

Amanda then made a very special presentation to Michael McGinn from Castlerahan centre. Michael was one of the founding members of our centre in 1946, and has always been a dedicated worker for the association. He has always supported and helped run all our centre’s activities, up to and including fundraising for this seminar. Without his help, and the help of others like him, the Pioneer association would not be alive today.

The third and final game for the weekend, ‘The Weakest Link’. Gary O’Callaghan hosted this game show. Eight contestants were quizzed until they were reduced to two, by means of an election for the weakest link in each round. Su-zann Scott and Matthew Mulkeen battled a tiebreaker and sudden death. At this point Matthew knew he was beaten, and conceded to Su-zann. Su-zann took with her a lollipop and a voucher for a meal for two, again in the Allingham.

We then set off to rock the night away to a Cavan band, "Firefly". After a few songs, the three had the crowd on the floor, Chris on tables, and all dancing to the point of collapse. They played until 1 am, when they tried to finish. Unfortunately the dancer refused to let them stop. As they played their encores, a higher power stepped in! The power supply to most of the hotel was interrupted as fuses blew. We waited in almost darkness for an hour while the hotel electrician tried to fix the problem. Shortly after 2am, Peter resumed with another night’s disco music. At 4am we all headed off to our rooms or the corridors for some the few hours remaining before breakfast.

Sunday began with an open forum, attended by Ray O'Connor from Central Office. This forum centred on the five topics from earlier in the weekend. Ray answered all questions he could, and promised to bring all comments back to Central Office. Some delegates expressed their dissatisfaction with some topics, which included the delay in mail getting to the correct areas in central office, (in one case over 10 days), and the fact that the same issues are raised at every seminar, without any sign of change. Communication was highlighted as a major success barrier. It was thought that a list of centre’s secretaries should be freely available to committees trying to run different pioneer activities. After all they "are trying to do good for the association, not harm it". It was felt by all present, that if we are trying to advertise upcoming pioneer events, we must have access to a current contact list. In respect to the pioneer web-site and magazine, Ray also highlighted that communication is a two way process, and that Central Office can only publish articles if they are both up sent to Central Office and up to publishing standards. In modern times, it was felt that email is one of the best ways to gain access to Central Office. On the five topics, the following was noted: -

The Pioneer Magazine

The Image of the PTAA

The Pioneer Web.

The Gradam Awards

Pioneer Activities

Fr. Andrew Tully then celebrated Mass with us in the Saimer Room, accompanied by a local church choir. Delegated attending assisted Fr. Andrew with the readings and the Prayers of the Faithful.

Those present then sat down to out final meal together. Amanda then officially closed the weekend, by thanking all those involved in making the weekend a success. We said our goodbyes, and eagerly await next year’s seminar, and all the pioneer activities in between!