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Call for probe into €2m rent payment to ex-bankers



Date Published: 28-Oct-2010

By Darragh McDonagh

A Galway TD has called for an inquiry into the relationship between a number of government departments and a former director of Anglo Irish Bank from whom they are leasing offices in Galway for more than €2m a year.

Fine Gael Deputy Ulick Burke said that dealings between the Department of Agriculture, the Revenue Commissioners and a property company owned by two bankers “stinks to high heaven” and demanded that questions are answered.

Both government departments have relocated their Galway offices at considerable expense in recent years to become tenants of former Anglo director Tom Browne and senior manager at AIB John Hughes.

Mr Browne, the former head of Anglo’s Irish lending division, is scheduled to appear before the Commercial Court next Monday as the bank pursues him for loans of around €45m secured on shares and various property investments.

The Department of Agriculture vacated its offices at the Hynes Building and moved just a few hundred yards to the Dockgate Building on Merchants Road, which is owned by Mr Browne and Mr Hughes, at a cost of more than €3m in 2003.

The two bankers, trading as the Ballybrit Partnership, are paid an annual rent of €922,250 for the offices in the Dockgate Building, which is one of the most expensive leases held by a government department outside of Dublin.

A rent increase of 24% was sanctioned earlier this year and backdated to January 2008 when rental yields and property prices around the country were in decline.

It is understood that the department, which employs 52 staff in its Galway offices, is paying €53,646 a year for the use of 65 car parking spaces and around €74,000 in respect of service charges.

“The rent being paid at Dockgate is higher than that of premises on O’Connell Street in Dublin, while there are acres of space available on the Mellows campus. Someone has stopped the move to the benefit of these bankers and it stinks,” said Deputy Burke.

The Offices of the Revenue Commissioners in Galway relocated last April from Hibernian House in Eyre Square to the €18m Fairgreen Building, which is also co-owned by Mr Browne and Mr Hughes.

The Revenue Commissioners are paying an annual rent of more than €1.2m for office space in the new development, which is the highest rate paid for government offices anywhere outside of the capital

“Someone is hiding something and I will be asking for details next week,” added Deputy Burke.

For more on this story, see the 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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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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