Date Published: 18-Sep-2009
The closure of a number of pubs in the city in recent weeks, coming in tandem with a reduction in opening hours at other premises, has prompted calls for intervention from the Government to save hundreds of jobs in the hospitality industry in the city.
In recent weeks, premises such as the Westside Tavern and Charlie’s, Bohermore, have shut their doors while the city’s most prominent publican, Val Hanley, who heads the national Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), has given up the lease on his hotel in Rahoon.
Meanwhile, the head of the City branch of the VFI, Sandra O’Connor, and her husband Dermot have drastically reduced opening hours at O’Connor’s Warwick Hotel, a landmark facility in Salthill for generations.
Mr Hanley said yesterday that takings at some hotel bars were down to one-third of what they were just seven years ago and claimed many publicans and bar owners were struggling to pay commercial rates to the City Council on top of a whole list of overheads, including water and waste charges.
Mr Hanley gave up the lease at the Hanley Oaks Hotel in Rahoon some weeks ago and is now managing the premises for well-known publican Ronan Lawless. The nearest pub to his premises, the Westside Tavern, shut down last month.
“The whole rates thing needs to be re-evaluated, as it is not a fair tax,” he said. “Publicans are struggling to pay maybe €1,000 a week in rates on top of the lease for their premises and waste and water charges. Some publicans have just had enough and there is no way you can keep it going.”
He said the tendency of more and more people to drink and smoke away from licensed premises, thanks to the availability of discounted alcoholic drinks in supermarkets, had led to a new set of social problems, including assaults in housing estates or fires in homes.
“Of course it is a tough time for every business, but now the hospitality business seems to be one of the first things to get knocked, compared to the last recession which was in a very different Ireland,” he said.
He said that “an awful lot” of pubs and hotel bars had reduced their staff number or hours, with some putting their bar staff on three- or four-day weeks.
“There is no doubt that the hospitality sector is struggling, even the mid-day lunch is struggling as people no longer want to spend a tenner for their lunch in a pub. That’s why we’ve asked for a review of commercial rates,” he said.
“The rural pub has been really badly hit and it has been estimated that over 600 jobs will be lost across the city and county by the end of the year, but the city pub is struggling as well. Bars cannot compete when supermarkets are selling alcohol as a ‘loss leader’ and people are drinking at home or in parks, it’s an epidemic now.”
Ms O’Connor, whose night club now only opens at weekends, said that “massive job losses” had been predicted for the hospitality trade over the coming months. After paring back their business, the O’Connors had hoped to re-open the 32-bedroom hotel for the peak Summer season.
“It is a really scary time for the trade and a lot of people are just hanging on,” she said. “We’ve had massive cut-backs in our own hotel over the past year. We are open every Friday and Saturday and just concentrating on getting bookings in. People are more ‘hands on’ now and it’s all about getting the family involved. Everyone’s trying to just ride out the storm.
“The commercial rates are crucifying us and they come on top of waste and water charges. The authorities are really going to have to do something dramatic about the rates for the hospitality sector when we have places closing down left, right, and centre.
“People are confining their drinking to staying at home or ‘bushing’, which is not just confined to teenagers anymore,” she said.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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
Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013
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.