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Awards can lose their lustre without a wall to hang them on



Date Published: {J}

On a list of things that a homeless man might feel he needs, surely a hero’s plaque to hang on his non-existent wall is right up there at the top of it.

But that’s what Ireland’s media pack gathered to witness on Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge last week as John Patrick Byrne accepted a Compassionate Citizen Award from ARAN, the Animal Rights Action Network, for jumping into the Liffey after his pet rabbit, Barney the bunny.

You really couldn’t make this stuff up.

It goes without saying that throwing a homeless man’s rabbit into the river is one scummy thing to do, but leaping into the Liffey after it isn’t the height of cleverness either.

Nor indeed is buying a bunny in the first place when you don’t have a hutch of your own, given that – by his own admission – it seriously reduces your chance of a bed indoors.

But we all make our choices and we have to stick with them. You might call it making your bed and lying in it, but that’s not even ironic.

However, while a love of animals can be all-consuming to the point of obsession, presenting a wall hanging to a man with no walls is just plain stupid.

It’s like giving football boots to a legless man or a digital camera to Stevie Wonder – or a post office savings account to Bertie Ahern.

Granted, the addition of a supply of carrots for Barney and food for John Patrick’s dog was a more practical solution, but a woollen jumper or a new coat might have been even more appropriate than a plaque.

After all you wouldn’t give a homeless man a hanger for the aforementioned coat – so why a framed bravery award without a hook to hang it on?

It also transpired that our homeless hero said he had been told a farmer from Tipperary had already offered him a job working with animals, and this offered the possibility of gaining his own home.

He said he would be happy to consider the offer even though he had a girlfriend and three children living in Ballyfermot, and ‘Tipperary is a bit far’.

Ignoring the fact that this 38 year old man has been homeless for the last 22 years but has a girlfriend and three children who aren’t, he is indeed quite right to see Tipp as a long trek from O’Connell Bridge – unless, of course, you’re in the casino business and Michael Lowry could be persuaded to give you a lift.

By any stretch this was a bizarre publicity exercise, compounded only by the scrum of a compliant press posse who didn’t even question the sheer idiocy of the entire charade.

A homeless man with two dogs and a rescued rabbit now has a bravery cert to keep out the chill of winter. And good luck to him because life won’t get any easier when the cameras disappear.

He might get some use for his framed award if some thug throws Thumper into the wash again – because he could always break it over their trick head.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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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