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Debate must stick to substantive issue instead of flying kites

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Date Published: 24-May-2012

 NOT for the first time, the problem with next week’s Referendum on the EU Stability Treaty is that the debate appears to be about almost everything other than what’s actually contained in the treaty wording itself. It stretches from an early judgement call on the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition to a poll on our continued membership of both the monetary union and the EU itself – and none of that is relevant to next week’s vote.

It is understandable of course that all of that should form the backdrop to the referendum because people are patently frustrated at the lack of progress towards economic stability, just as they are understandably angry at the real cost of the bank bail-out. They have every right to express their rage at the high price ordinary people are paying for the crimes of the elite, just as their frustration is legitimate given the sacrifices made in this country have not been replicated anywhere else in Europe.

The Greeks may have been hit with even tougher austerity measures in theory, but the collapse of one Government and the failure to replace them in the subsequent election means that course remains largely unchartered. But none of that is at issue in next week’s vote – this is about promoting responsible budgeting across all 25 member states and offering guaranteed access to emergency funding through the European Stability Mechanism.

Ireland currently receives financial assistance from the temporary European Financial Stability Fund which will be replaced by the permanent ESM.

Those in favour of the treaty – and in particular the two Government parties and Fianna Fail – argue that only those countries which ratify the Stability Treaty will have access to the ESM fund.

Those against it dismiss the notion that Ireland will be left isolated, arguing that – if for no other reason – abandoning this country would do far too much damage to the euro zone as a whole. And if they haven’t dumped the Greeks, they’re unlikely to take such an entrenched approach to Ireland.

There are those who legitimately oppose any European interference in our domestic economy, but the reality is that we sold our sovereignty once we took the first bail-out. It is part of a wider series of economic governance measures aimed at ensuring countries keep their debts under control and balance their budgets.

And those who favour this treaty quite rightly point out that, if we had this ‘guiding hand’ from Europe at the height of the profligate Fianna Fail-led regime, we’d have been reined in on spending before we get into this mess in the first place.

It is not for a newspaper to advocate acceptance or rejection of this Fiscal Treaty – that is a decision for each individual in the confines of the voting centre – but it is our duty to point out that much of the debate surrounding this referendum has been tangential at best to the substantive issue.

Michael Noonan’s throwaway remark on feta cheese wasn’t wise and Richard Bruton’s uncharacteristic faux pas lent credence to the notion that, once again, Ireland will keep putting this to the people until the Government gets the answer it wants.

The difference is this time we don’t have a veto and this will go on – with or without us. Those in favour say that our acceptance will inject badly needed confidence into the euro zone, but in either event, this process will continue irrespective of our approval or rejection.

Many of those who argue against are not against the principle – but they feel that it is premature for Ireland to vote at a time of such unprecedented change across the entire Union.

The recent election of Francois Hollande was seen as a positive sign by all who believe in more stimulus and less austerity – and given the changing dynamic, they argue that postponing this vote until we have a clearer picture is the wisest move.

On the other end, continuing in this economic limbo has ramifications for any possible return of Ireland to the markets – and this is as much about building confidence outside of the EU as it is among the members themselves.

So clearly the issues at stake are complex and open to contrasting interpretations – what we don’t need on top of that is the raising of red herrings to add further confusion that would see voters decide on this treaty for reasons that have nothing to do with it.

We need clear heads and honest debate on the substantive issue – distraction only leads to confusion when clarity is most required.

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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