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Fifty-eight-year-old Martin Byrne is back in his native South Offaly, after becoming the first member of An Garda Síochána and the oldest Irish mountaineer to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Speaking to the Offaly Independent just hours after arriving in Dublin on a flight from Abu Dhabi, the climber from Golden Grove, near Coolderry, where his mother Kitty, 93, still resides, told of his mixed feelings on reaching the highest point in the world.

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"I was quite upset by the bodies close to the summit," said Byrne, who has been based Harcourt Street station for the last 21 years of his 34-year policing career. "I had mixed feelings when I got to the top, to be quite honest."

One death that struck a particular chord was that of John Delaney, an Irishman who died just days before.

Byrne successfully reached the top of Everest via the North Ridge from Tibet three years after his first Everest attempt.

He left Ireland on April 9 and began his climb from Tibet on the night of April 12. He had hoped to attempt to summit between May 9 and 17, but bad weather conditions meant his attempt had to pushed back and he finally made the summit on Thursday, May 26, at 11:30 a.m. local time, along with team leader Lakpa Sherpa and two other Nepalese climbing partners.

"This was my fourth time to climb on Everest and anything other than a summit would have been a failure for me," Byrne said.

He met his team in Nepal in 2005. They climbed in 2007, 2009 and 2010, reaching a high of 8,300 meters last year, just 550 meters below summit height.

"What inspired me more than anything to climb Mouth Everest were the sherpas I became friends with in Nepal," he said.

Byrne said he "always felt strong" on this year's climb, thanks to a "well prepared, well organized, well disciplined" team, as well as hard work and luck.

"I've trained hard for the last five years for this. It's not something that just comes natural or easy.

"You really have to work at it. This year my health held up very well and we were lucky with the weather," he said.

However, news of his compatriot Delaney's death just 50 meters from the summit on May 21 made Byrne question whether or not to continue.

"The night I heard I was going to just cancel everything and return home the next morning," he said. "I'd got to know John well at Base Camp and we'd built up a good relationship. It was absolutely devastating to me when the news was conveyed."

Byrne, nonetheless, decided to continue the climb so as not to let the rest of his team down.


Two prominent county publicans in the same town fell foul of the law and were hauled before the courts last week, the Limerick Leader.

Mike Houlihan, a Fine Gael councilor, was fined €2,500 for possession of illicit vodka at his pub in Kilmallock last year.

State solicitor Aidan Judge, prosecuting, said a number of customs officers entered the pub at Sarsfield Street Kilmallock, on Feb. 3, 2010, to carry out an inspection.

Kilmallock District Court court was told that 4.5 liters of illicit vodka, most probably sourced in the UK, was seized in the pub during the inspection.

"No duty had been paid on the vodka," said Judge, who agreed that the premises is generally "very well run."

Solicitor Robin Lee, representing Houlihan, said his client had been offered the vodka by another individual some time previously and that he didn't realize it was illicit.

"It was a small quantity," said Lee, who added that his client has not had any difficulties in relation to the running of the pub in the past.

Convicting Houlihan of the offence, Judge Mary O'Halloran imposed a fine of €5,000, which she mitigated to €2,500 because of the circumstances of the case. In the other case, gardai found around 40 people in Flanagan's at 4.05 a.m. following a "malicious" anonymous phone call that there was a fire at the bar.

Sheila Flanagan, 51, of Flanagan's Bar, Sarsfield Street, Kilmallock, pleaded guilty to the offence under the licensing laws and was fined €220.

Garda Annette Courtney, of Bruff Garda station, said in the early hours of Friday, Dec. 31 she received a call alleging there was a fire in Flanagan's Bar.

When she reached the scene, fire personnel told her that there was no fire.

"I found approximately 40 people with full glasses of alcohol. The proprietor was aggressive and abusive," said Garda Courtney, who informed the drinkers it was long past closing time and proceeded to clear the bar with the assistance of Garda Claire Haugh.

Solicitor Lee, who also defended Flanagan, said a number of people congregated in Flanagan's bar to celebrate a birthday during regular bar hours. "They requested to remain on," he said. "Nothing had been pre-planned. She acceded to the request. She is of a hospitable nature."


A massive cannabis factory was discovered by the fire service on the outskirts of Rathangan last week when the shed housing it burst into flames, the Leinster Leader reports.

Although all the plants were destroyed and it is hard to estimate how much they were worth, the size of the operation indicates it was one of the most significant of its kind found in Kildare.

It is estimated that the shed on Boston Hill was using up to 4,000 units of electricity a week costing approximately a €2,000 a month to run. It's believed the fire broke out shortly after 5.30 a.m. on last week and the fire service was alerted. They called the gardai when they discovered the building was being used as a cannabis cultivation factory. The nearby house was being rented to a number of Chinese nationals, who were seen leaving the scene shortly after the fire began.

The shed contained equipment used in the growing of cannabis, including UV lights, two generators and a mezzanine floor level covered in peat moss. Everything was destroyed by the fire. CCTV cameras were also in place.

It's understood the owner had been renting out both properties for several months. Gardai from Kildare Town and Rathangan are continuing their investigations. The cause of the fire is unknown, though an examination of the vast array of electrical equipment will likely provide the answer.