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End of a decade when our world has come to nought



Date Published: {J}

The world never really warmed to the noughties – it never had a ring to it, like the eighties or the nineties, sounding instead more like a room for bold children. But now as the curtain comes down on the first decade of the new millennium, we remember how much things have changed in a decade.

Back in the year 2000, we listened to music – for the most part – on a cassette; if you had a CD player in your car, chances are it was a walkman on your seat attached to your cigarette lighter and your cassette slot like a badly constructed set of Christmas lights.

We put floppy disks into our computers; our televisions couldn’t be mounted flat screen over the fireplace or they’d have pulled the next door neighbours’ dividing wall in on top of you.

We found our way from A to B using badly folded maps that frequently obstructed the driver’s view, in an era before we had sat nav.

People smoked in pubs; indeed people drank in pubs. We only had wine at home if there was a special dinner or it was Christmas.

Travelling to Europe meant changing currency, but at least you didn’t have to take off your shoes and belt every time you passed through an airport.

W communicated by letter or – the height of sophistication – by fax; we paid for expensive purchases by cheque not by credit card, and we stayed in on a Friday night to watch the new boy, Pat Kenny, presenting the Late Late Show.

It was only twelve years since Galway hurlers had won an All-Ireland; the footballers hadn’t even won their most recent Sam Maguire. The GAA still had Rule 21 which meant the RUC couldn’t play hurling. Now we don’t even have the RUC.

Glenroe was still on the box and Dinny was still in the land of the living; Billy Meehan wasn’t dead in Fair City; Top of the Pops was on the telly until 2006; Bull Island was the cutting edge of political satire.

We’d only won the Grand Slam once before and were thrilled to win the Triple Crown in 2004; we didn’t have the euro; we’d rejected Nice but then we passed it and we never knew we’d be doing the same thing on Lisbon before the decade was at an end.

Half the country went to New York for the Christmas shopping, where they marvelled at the Twin Towers which were still standing.

We had foot and mouth, which meant we all had heavily saturated mats to wipe our feet on. Now half of Galway has heavily saturated doormats once again but it’s down to flooding and their homes are in ruins.

Bill Clinton was President of the US, and making full use of the Oval Office; Fine Gael was wiped out in 2002 and Enda Kenny – a man who held onto his own seat by the skin of his teeth – took over a party in disarray.

Waterford Crystal wasn’t just one of our most recognisable brand names on the world stage; it was also a horse who won Olympic gold with Cian O’Connor on its back before it was disqualified for taking drugs in 2004.

On New Year’s Eve of that same year, Bertie Ahern pledged €10m in Irish aid to the people affected by the tsunami in South-East Asia. That’s about the same amount as Brian Cowen pledged to the people of Galway and Cork three weeks ago.

We lost some sporting greats over the decade – close to home, Enda Colleran died in 2004; Sean Purcell died in 2005 and his fellow Terrible Twin Frankie Stockwell joined him in 2009; George Best died in 2005; Charlie Haughey died in 2006; John McGahern died in 2006.

Back in 2000, Roy Keane was playing for Manchester United and Ireland and seemed reasonably happy doing both; his home city of Cork was the European Capital of Culture in 2005 as opposed to the underwater city of Atlantis in 2009.

Pope John Paul died in 2005; Pope Benedict took over and Brendan Comiskey’s resignation was an early glimpse of the sort of scandals that have marked the entire decade for the Catholic Church.

The GAA opened up Croke Park to ‘foreign games’, and Lansdowne Road closed in 2006. Now we’ve won the Grand Slam in Croker and Lansdowne is almost ready for re-opening, giving up two world-class stadiums in the country.

The M50 was completed in 2005 – before they started to dig it up and start all over again so that we’d get in and out of Ikea easier for all the furniture we needed for our second homes before the bubble burst and we couldn’t even afford our first homes any more.

We had a heatwave in 2006 with the warmest temperature this century recorded at Elphin in Co Roscommon. July 2006 was the warmest, on average, since records began in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. Now we’re up to our necks in water.

Decommissioning became a reality in 2005 and the Greens – who started out the decade eating lentils and hugging trees – came into Government in 2007…just in time to take the rap for the spectacular bursting of the economic bubble.

Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end – the foreign holidays, the Galway tent, the two new cars outside the recently extended house; the holiday apartment in Kusadasi that’s now worth the cost of a packet of crisps.

And when you think of it, perhaps the noughties wasn’t such a bad name for it after all – we came into the decade full of promise and we leave it with nought to show for our investment.

For more read page 15 of this week’s Connacht 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

First local bragging rights of the new season go to Mervue Utd



Date Published: 18-Mar-2013

Mervue United 2

Salthill Devon 1

Jason Byrne at Fahy’s Field

Mervue United have earned the early bragging rights in the latest instalment of a derby clash with their old rivals Salthill Devon thanks to first half goals from Tom King and youngster Ryan Manning at Fahy’s Field on Friday night.

Old teammates were re-united on the field as the likes Jason Molloy, Tom King, Gary Curran, Paul Sinnott and new Devon signing Derek O’Brien were among the names who used to wear the maroon of dormant Galway United.

Mervue came out of the blocks strongly and Curran unleashed the first meaningful shot after six minutes which failed to trouble Ronan Forde and glanced wide.

Two minutes later, former Mervue striker Enda Curran fired Devon’s first effort from distance but steered well clear of the target.

Almost immediately at the other end, Mervue thought they had taken the lead when King was released into the box and his shot squirmed under Forde towards goal, but Devon skipper Eugene Greaney was at hand to clear off the line.

Three minutes later, an almost identical move was executed by Mervue as Brendan Lavelle played King in, who this time opted to dink over the advancing Forde for a marvellous finish to give Mervue a deserved 1-0 lead.

Mervue immediately searched for another as Manning picked out Varley, and with his cross he searched for Lavelle but William Enubele cleared just as Lavelle was about to head it.

From the resulting corner, Manning whipped it in to Varley, whose shot was well blocked by Colm Horgan.

A second goal was coming, and it arrived on 18 minutes when King played a neat exchange with Paul Sinnott and he squared for Manning, who shot first-time to bag his first League of Ireland goal.

Following this it looked as if Mervue could further stretch their lead by half-time, but Devon kept their heads up and as a result of their hard work they eventually began to find their feet.

As the interval drew closer O’Brien – who had been eventually signed by Devon just hours before the kick-off – collected a long hopeful ball from Forde and cut inside but blazed over with the goal at his mercy.

Five minutes later, Enda Curran won a loose ball and his pace proved too much for Michael McSweeney but his shot was well saved by Gleeson.

On the break Mervue pelted forward and Lavelle saw another effort blocked by the omnipresent Greaney who was a rock at the back. Lavelle collected again and squared for Manning, but this time he mishit his shot and Forde caught easily.

On the stroke of half-time the teenager had another go at bagging his second but his free-kick sailed well over into the astroturf cages at Fahy’s Field.

A crowd of almost 300 people made their way to the east side of the city to witness the encounter, and perhaps a mixture of the heavy rain in the hour before kick-off along with the racing at Cheltenham earlier in the day affected the attendance.

The second-half failed to prove as entertaining as the first as Devon kept fighting hard to claw back into the contest and prevent a third goal which would have ended their chances of getting points on the board.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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Archive News

Festival whets the appetite for new food experiences



Date Published: 21-Mar-2013

I know it’s hard to believe, but there are well-grounded, consistent reports in recent weeks that Fianna Fáil nationally has been receiving a large number of new applications for membership of the party.

When I heard it first, I thought to myself – sounds like new recruits to join the crew of the Titanic. Now, I’m beginning to wonder if they knew something that the rest of us didn’t.

For, FF showed a bounce in two recent opinion polls. And then George Lee did his walkout from Fine Gael, leaving FG and Enda Kenny to watch anxiously in the coming months as further polls come in, and the Kenny leadership comes under renewed pressure.


Fine Gael is still well ahead in the polls, but you write off FF at your peril. The old Fianna Fáil ‘faith’ still runs deep even among many of those who are now angry at the way the country was allowed to run on to the economic rocks under FF stewardship.

On the face of it, it sounds like FF shouldn’t be an even vaguely attractive prospect for new members . . . you can be damn sure that FF unpopularity was one of the main reasons that Galway West TD Noel Grealish (formerly of the PDs and now Independent) wouldn’t touch joining the FF Parliamentary Party with a barge pole and has been flexing his political muscle in recent months as an Independent.

That’s despite FF Ministers Eamon Ó Cuív and Noel Dempsey courting Grealish for months to join FF, with even speculation of a junior ministry ‘sweetener’ at some stage when Brian Cowen eventually carries out that long-threatened reshuffle.

Wonder if Grealish would reconsider now? For there’s no denying that in recent weeks in FF there has been a sneaking dawning feeling that, if they could just hold off the General Election until 2012, then maybe – just maybe! – at least their bedrock support might have come back by then and the massacre of FF TDs might not be quite as bloody as has been predicted for the past year.

Why, some FFrs believe they might even have enough TDs left to cosy-up to the Labour Party. That’s provided of course they can hold out to 2012 and their government partners, the Greens, don’t tear themselves apart in the meantime with their habit of washing dirty linen in public.

People like Grealish would have been hoping that some of the FF voters might go for the ‘first cousin’ in the shape of a former PD like himself – well weren’t the PDs just a family row in FF? The big test for angry or wavering FF supporters on election day in a place like Galway West would be just how many of them would vote Fine Gael? I have always been of the belief that ‘the hand would wither’ before they could give ‘the blueshirts’ a vote.

Meanwhile, in the past few weeks, the pressure has transferred to Fine Gael. They are the ones who now have to worry about any slippage in support, they have convince us that they could run the economy better . . . and against this shaky new background, they also have to worry about ‘upping their game’ in key areas like Galway West.

One of the most recent opinion polls showed the highest regional level of support for Fine Gael as being in Connacht-Ulster, which was traditionally the area which Fianna Fáil could count on as heartland. That has to be ‘the Enda Kenny factor’ coming through in constituencies close to his Mayo base, where FG had a huge 53% of the first preferences in 2007.

For more, read page 12 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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