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Different strokes for different folks when keeping track on rail money

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



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

Judy Murphy



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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Rory takes on fresh challenge as lauded DruidMurphy returns

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 03-Apr-2013


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After twenty years Sarah lands dream role in Druid

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 04-Apr-2013

 Sarah Lynch has been living and breathing Druid Theatre since she wangled a job as a runner fresh out of college two decades ago at age 20. After holding down just about every role imaginable there – from company manager to director to stage manager – her appointment as general manager to one of the country’s most prestigious theatre companies last October seemed almost inevitable.

Because once she had tasted the fruit of Druid she was going nowhere . . . and going everywhere. Sarah’s tenure at Druid since 1998 has brought her on a journey that has reached just about every corner of the globe and almost all the islands off Ireland in between.

After graduating from Limerick with a degree in French and English Sarah spent a stint teaching in a secondary school. But it immediately became clear that wasn’t the road for her.

“One thing I was always certain of was I’d be involved in the performing arts, whether on stage or off stage or behind it. The immediate reaction of the audience is such a buzz,” she grins.

Her earliest memory was of her grandfather, Bud Clancy, on stage with his trumpet and dance band. “I must have been three or four because he died shortly after that. But it never left me. I got bitten by the bug. I started playing the trumpet. A friend of my grandfather taught me how to play and I was with the Limerick brass and reed orchestra known as the Boherbuoy Band, I was just a kid with all these adults.”

She learned to play other brass instruments such as the French horn and cornet before turning her hand to the guitar and song-writing. “I taught myself guitar. Sometime I tinker on the piano and I think that’s my next instrument. I love percussion. You can’t get me off a drum kit for love or money. Many is the night I’ve made a fool of myself on one of those,” she laughs.

In 2010, Sarah released her debut album, Letter to Friends, which was launched by playwright Enda Walsh, whose short play, Lynndie’s Gotta Gun, she had directed as part of the 2008 Galway Arts Festival.

The collection of songs was produced by Wayne Sheehy, a musician she had met when opening for Juliet Turner on Turner’s Burn the Black Suit tour.

“I could probably have done it ten years ago but for the manic schedule with Druid and touring so much,” she reflects. “I haven’t done much with it since. I used to play gigs in the Róisín Dubh. The bigger twin is theatre at the moment. The bigger twin bullies the other twin. You don’t get much time to do music.”

After fleeing the classroom, Sarah knocked on the door of a former college mate, Andrew Flynn, now with the Galway Youth Theatre, who kindly offered up his couch. He also managed to get her a job as a runner – the person who does everything from making tea to helping with props – on a Druid production of As You Like It.

“I remember working with Mark O’Halloran, I had great fun with him. There was Helen Norton, it was Maeliosa Stafford directing. He’s coming back to the Druid after ten years to star in Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark. He left me as a runner, now I’m general manager.”

Much of Sarah’s time behind the scenes at Druid has been spent on the road. In 2009 alone, Druid toured to Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA presenting 364 performances in 26 venues.

Indeed so much of life has been out spent living of a suitcase that she gave up her base in Galway to move back in with her family in Caherdavin, on the Galway side of Limerick city.

The tour of the Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh was so long the crew were instructed to pack two suitcases, one with summer clothes, the other winter gear, as they would be spanning the seasons. Her job now entails a lot of commuting, but driving is where she gets a lot of thinking done.

Sarah’s decision to apply for the more home-based job of general manager was one she made discreetly while on the Druid Murphy tour around the US. She had to undergo her interview in between shows at the Lincoln Center in New York. It was the most nerve wrecking experience of her life, she admits.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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