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Angry Udaras chief lashes out

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Date Published: 12-Nov-2009

Suggestions that executives of Údarás na Gaeltachta – the enterprise agency for Connemara and other Gaeltacht areas – racked up a whopping €826,000 in expenses have been flatly denied by the head of the state board.

The allegations were made in a weekend newspaper of executives enjoying luxury travel to the States and Canada during 2007 and 2008 and living it up in the lap of luxury – it was compared in passing to the FAS scandal.

But Údarás have issued a statement to The Connacht Tribune stating that figures quoted in the Sunday tabloid were more than 60% off the mark.

Chief Executive Officer Padraig O hAolain said that they were at a loss where these figures came from and said that the 10 executives had accumulated €309,000 in those two years and nothing like the figure that was quoted in the paper. T

here were allegations that one executive travelled to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Chicago in 2007, used business class travel and stayed in luxury hotels during the trip.

Another trip to the states which involved visits to Boston and New York on business class flights cost more than €8,000 amid claims that some of the receipts have gone missing.

It is also alleged that seven trips were made to a seaweed plant in Halifax in Canada by three executives during 2007 and 2008 costing almost €31,000.

The claims also stated that executives’ wives also travelled on some of the trips and some of the receipts claimed for involved a packet of polo mints, a can of cider and crisps.

Mr. O hAolain denied that wives’ expenses were never covered and clarified that the Halifax trips cost €10,500 – and not €30,000 as was reported.

“We are regularly audited by our own internal audit and also by the Comptroller and Auditor General and have always been given a clean bill of health. We run a very open and transparent organisation”, he added.

Údarás board member Cllr. Seamus Walsh said he would be outraged if the executives ran up such an expenses bill when elected members found it difficult to get their basic entitlements.

He said that he had been a member of Údarás na Gaeltachta for the past four and a half years and was appalled by the amount of expenses which had been amassed.

“Last year we, the elected board members, took a 10% cut in our annual allocation, cut back on the number of meetings of the regional board and eliminated four conferences in order to save Údarás money”, he said.

Cllr. Walsh said that he went to a meeting in Kerry last year on behalf of Údarás and was still awaiting basic mileage expenses for this. “It’s a bit rich that the executives of Údarás can live the high life at the taxpayers’ expense”, he added.

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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Archive News

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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