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An insiderÕs look at the Irish property ÔduckshootÕ



Date Published: {J}

Interesting that I happened to be reading a review copy of Simon Kelly’s book Breakfast With Anglo on a day when the ongoing disaster of the property crash hit home palpably once more – this time in the shape of the chains and locks being put on McNamara building sites in Galway.

A number of the sites at NUI Galway were locked-up on Friday morning and there were ashen-faced people walking about with mobile phones to their ears, cranes standing idle against a leaden skyline, and an air of utter confusion that has been so common in recent times.

That’s one of the drawbacks of Kelly’s book. For me, it conveys none of the tragedy . . . it’s an entertaining, cracking read that rips along, and, at times, the whole ‘developer thing’ in some respects comes across as laddish, adventurous and so charmingly ‘Irish’.

Don’t get me wrong, Kelly makes it clear that they are prepared to meet the consequences, but there is such an air of devil-may-care running through the entire developer-banks system, that you begin to pinch yourself . . . remembering what bastards the banks can be when it comes to something like a delayed payment on a credit card.

There’s plenty of colour in the book. For instance, when his developer father, Paddy Kelly, meets a valuation expert in a field in Dublin, they both hop into Paddy Kelly’s new Rolls Royce and bounce around in the field as they discuss finance.

For me it’s one of the key scenes because surely it was repeated umpteen times around the country. Perhaps they bumped around in 4X4s on the outskirts of those towns in the West where there are now ghost estates of houses planted amongst ‘green fields, ,like some sort of alien crop.

The book purports to give the ‘other side’ of the story of how the development boom built up in Ireland in the good years and how it all came down with such a crash in the past few. In other words, we have heard from newspapers and those who blame the developers, this is the story written by one of the developers.

Simon Kelly, in fact, comes across as some sort of ordinary bloke involved in an extraordinary business. Kelly doesn’t duck the responsibility, but he makes it sound it was all just a little unfortunate . . . rather than a national disaster. A series of deals gone wrong.

Kelly distinctly underplays himself and sounds like a man who always drove a battered jeep, but there are insights into the swashbuckling style in which these guys operated . . . with more than willing accomplices on the other side.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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



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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