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Different strokes for different folks when keeping track on rail money

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Date Published: 05-Nov-2009

THERE is a rich irony which won’t be lost on Galway County Councillor Michael Fahy after details of shocking levels of fraud were revealed within CIE last week.

Three individuals within the state organisation have been sacked for fraudulent activity that had cost the company more than €650,000, of which €100,000 had been repaid.

Details were thin on the ground from CIE chairman John Lynch – a man hardly out of the headlines these days given his generous retirement package from FÁS before he took up the reins on the trains, so to speak – but there was nothing to indicate a criminal trial or conviction or stretch behind bars for the perpetrators.

Cllr Fahy, on the other hand spent seven months in jail having been sentenced to twelve months imprisonment and fined €75,000 – subsequently reduced to €30,000 – after he was found guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal Court of misappropriating County Council funds and attempted theft.

The amount involved in his case was a fraction over €7,000, and even then it wasn’t cash – it was a fence on his farm…ironically close to the new railway line that will soon link Galway to Limerick.

The rights and wrongs of the Stroke’s case have already been well ventilated in court and nobody would condone wrongdoing, particularly on the part of a public representative.

But there must also be a sense of proportion here and a level of consistency. And if the Stroke deserved twelve months and a €75,000 fine over seven grand’s worth of fencing, then the guys behind the CIE fraud might well expect a fine that would ease the pressure on the Government looking for €1.4 billion in public sector pay cuts.

Senator Shane Ross has already claimed that this fraud is just the tip of the iceberg – and that CIE will do everything in its power from letting us see the iceberg itself – even if CIE’s Barry Kenny dismisses that claim as a slur.

Representatives of Iarnród Éireann and of its parent body, CIE, appeared before the Oireachtas Transport Committee last week after media reports claimed that fraud and malpractice at Iarnrod Eireann could have cost the company close on €9 million.

Iarnród Éireann Chief Executive Dick Fearn broke down the €665,000; €271,000 related to collusion with a contractor, €363,000 to the illegal sale of railway equipment such as sleepers, and €30,000 to invoices for work not done.Three employees were dismissed as a result – but not, apparently, tried for fraud or jailed for what might well be described as theft.

Even worse, it emerged that a consultants’ report into procurement practices and financial control had identified total losses to Iarnrod Eireann of €2.6m.

And the company admitted that a draft of the report had estimated the historical loss at €8.7m, but the consultants involved were instructed not to include what Irish Rail described as ‘guesstimates’ in their final report.

They’re right about one thing – this requires a lot more than a guesstimate. And if €9 million of our cash is unaccounted for, it’s time somebody in CIE stepped up to the plate, if you’ll pardon the pun, and explained who stole it, misappropriated it or stuffed it down the back of a train seat.

If a line of fencing was sufficiently serious to see one man spend seven months in jail, you’d think that the mystery of €9 million disappearing into thin air might at least warrant a Garda investigation.

Diversity the key for great leaders

WHAT exactly do Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Simon Cowell have in common? Before you say the X-Factor, the answer is in fact that the three of them made the top ten in a survey of the world’s all-time greatest leaders last week.

The Youth of Today survey, commissioned by the Prince’s Trust, also included John Terry, Moses – that’s the one with the ten commandments as opposed to Remi Moses who played for West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United – and Alan Sugar as great leaders we have known.

What’s wrong with these people? Alan Sugar hasn’t led anything other than a mutiny in the Tottenham Hotspur boardroom. And Simon Cowell has confined his leadership achievements to merely leading young wannabes up the garden path.

Yet Cowell, the man with the trousers up to his very hard neck, drew the same percentage of the votes as Mother Teresa and Henry VIII, whose presence is probably explained by young girls mixing him up with his alter ego Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the Tudors.

Martin Luther King was joined in the top three by Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela, a vote that will surely draw the ire of Nick Griffin and his BNP cronies, given that all three clearly share a skin colouring that was not white.

According to the survey, 70 per cent of teenagers claim they are more likely to be inspired by someone they know than by a celebrity – so presumably they all know Simon Cowell then.Two in three (67 per cent) believe there are more celebrities setting a bad example than a good example today. Which brings us back to Simon Cowell again.

How can a top ten of the world’s greatest leaders – Mandela, MLK, Mother Teresa and Obama – also include John Terry, Simon Cowell and Joanna Lumley, who was indeed a role model when she played Purdy in the Avengers all those years ago?

And where’s Bertie Ahern, the greatest living leader of them all – a man who has just embarked on yet another career, this one as a writer of great fiction?

And how can there be a top ten of world leaders with Bono – unless of course there’s a minimum height requirement.

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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