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Being known to Garda’ doesnÕt mean youÕre their friend

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Date Published: {J}

You’d have thought that, if a man was known to Gardaí, his life would be more protected than exposed – but in fact being known to Gardaí is one surefire way of being shot to death.

That makes me very afraid because I’m known to many Gardaí and many Gardaí know me; some of them have been friends of mine since schooldays and one of them is my brother in law.

But by making public the fact that I’m known to Gardaí, I may now be exposing myself to the danger of sudden and traumatic death. The fact that I’m known to some doctors and nurses might be a small consolation here, but only if I’m attacked near a hospital.

“Known to Gardaí” is one of those clichés which television reporters, in particular, refer to as broadcasting shorthand for a string of convictions as long as your proverbial arm – so why don’t they just say it straight out then?

These crime junkies of the small screen are also frequently guilty of doing a disservice to the investigative powers of the boys and girls in blue.

Say, for example, a man is found dead in a ditch with two bullet wounds to his head, his hands tied behind his back and six inch nails driven through both of his kneecaps.

It hardly takes Taggart to spot the telltale signs of a murrrder here – but reporters announce nothing more to the nation than that Gardaí are treating the death as suspicious.

Suspicious would be if the bloke in the ditch had a strange bump on his head; not if he was full of more lead than your average pencil.

Admittedly we all resort to the old euphemism in the case of a suicide, where – rather than add to the distress of the family – we simply say that Gardaí have ruled out foul play.

But if the case of these suspicious deaths, the breathless correspondent frequently goes on to describe in graphic detail the injuries inflicted on the victims – with a little bit of editorialising thrown in, pointing out that gun crime is the scourge of our streets or that playing with the big boys can damage your health.

Then we give the criminals nicknames that turn this whole farce into Gotham City. We have the General, the Monk, the Viper, the Coach, the Footballer, Fatso, the Tosser, the Boxer and the rest of them.

It makes them sound like Batman and Robin should be in hot pursuit, after a plea from Commissioner Gordon or a bell on the old red Batphone.

When the Viper was shot, one of the television reports revealed “one of the bullets bounced off his skull, just above the eye…” so that was undoubtedly a suspicious incident involving a man who was known to Gardaí.

The murder of Veronica Guerin was a brutal, vicious, barbaric attack on the mother of a young boy. But Veronica, like the rest of the crime correspondents, flew too close to the sun – and given that they’re not exactly dealing with Mensa candidates, someone was always going to get hurt.

And yet Veronica’s death only sparked a whole new plethora of crime reporters – print and television – all bursting to reveal what life was like on the dark side of our streets.

I’m glad the only Monks I know are in the Abbey and the footballers are in Terryland Park; you can go there secure in the knowledge that they’re unlikely to hurt you because even if they did shoot at you, most of the time, they’d be likely to miss.

The Viper capitalized on his nickname by setting up a licenced ‘collection service’ to force hardpressed householders to pay up their bad debts.

And funnily enough a guy called the Viper on your doorstep demanding his money might have more impact than a letter from some lending agency – particularly if it’s one that the taxpayers have just loaned several billion to in the first place.

If he calls again, just tell him you’re known to the Gardaí – that will leave him wondering if they’re your friends or, if like him, you have a long criminal record.

For more read page 13 of 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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