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About time RTE hit back over scurrilous cocaine slurs on staff

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Date Published: {J}

It took RTE long enough to come out fighting as the allegations continued to fly over the life and death of Gerry Ryan – but when the lion finally roared over the weekend, it was with a real bite and vengeance.

And not before time, because whatever Gerry Ryan did or didn’t do in life, it was a giant step too far for the Sunday Independent to suggest that some drug dealer had half his client base working in Donnybrook.

No doubt there are coke heads in RTE – just as, heaven forbid, there might even be in the bowels of the Sunday Independent – but to suggest this was a widespread problem, aided and abetted by bent cops who can keep celebrities out of the Joy, took this on to a different level entirely.

This whole thing has turned into a feeding frenzy, as the tabloids in particular – and the Sindo is a tabloid in attitude if not in size – try to outdo each other in fanciful claims about the drink and drug intake of the rich and famous.

Gerry Ryan took cocaine, and the traces in his system identified in his post mortem clearly weren’t the first that toxicology tests could have found over the years. But if he was consuming as much as some would have you believe, he’d make Pete Doherty look like a nun.

Nonetheless, he took drugs and for that his name will now be forever tarnished, but to move from that to suggest that RTE is some sort of hotbed of Charlie heads – without any attribution or substantive fact – is just tacky and sensationalist.

The irony is that these allegations would be made by the Sunday Independent of all papers, an organ that has built its ‘social coverage’ on the back of Dublin’s glitterati where drug abuse truly is as common as drinking pints.

This was, after all, the paper that built Katy French into something more than a clothes horse, and the paper that for years bestowed its version of fame on a string on nobodies with fast cars and model girlfriends – many of whom are by any standards popular purveyors of the old Columbian Marching Powder.

For far too long RTE has been afraid to incur the wrath of the Sunday Independent because these guys bear a grudge like nobody else – and their form of revenge is to turn its considerable guns back on their attacker. Just ask Pat Kenny or Joe Duffy.

But this was a step too far and finally RTE hit back with all of the force it could muster. It denied the unsubstantiated claims of widespread drug abuse within its organisation and put it up to the Sunday Indo to prove otherwise.

It defended the vast majority of its employees who no more take cocaine than they indulge in long nights drinking €400 bottles of champagne in nightclubs. That’s the preserve of Sunday Indo social diarists and commentators.

I knew Gerry Ryan, though not well. I knew he dabbled with cocaine, but I neither knew nor cared to what extent he was a user. He was a talented broadcaster and a genial host, but he more than anyone would know that – once he was identified as a drug user – the gloves would be off.

As it happens, I know a lot more of RTE’s broadcasters and I know them well enough to say that they are neither drug users nor abusers. But the sort of nonsense reported by the Sunday Independent tars them all with the one brush.

The reality is that you could probably stick a pin on the map and find a level of drug use in any company with more than 50 employees; and you could definitely make that claim about any second level school in the country.

But to build this up into some sort of Hollywood drama – dirty cops, drug dealers to the stars, coke heads all over the small screen and airwaves – is the stuff of pure fantasy.

It may be too late to defend Gerry Ryan’s name, and the truth is that his tarnished reputation is of his own making. There will undoubtedly be other RTE employees outed before the witch hunt finds another target.

But there won’t be many, and the notion that staff at the national broadcaster have a cocaine dealer on some version of a retainer is unlikely to have its day in court.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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