Date Published: 13-Dec-2012
When the news broke about the tragic death of the nurse involved in the Royal Radio Phone Hoax, I found myself annoyed about how the tragedy was reported.
“She was found dead.” said the BBC News, but everyone knew what had happened. This poor woman had killed herself and the euphemistic way this glaring yet dark truth was presented bugged the hell out of me.
Doubtless the Beeb wanted to respect the bereaved family by awaiting confirmation from a post-mortem, but I wondered if in England there still lurks a trace of the suicide taboo that thrives in Ireland.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, yet here I am going on about suicide. I’m not going to apologise for my failure to be all bouncy and festive this week, because if I ignored this issue I’d be behaving the same as so many Irish people.
When I first found out many years ago that suicide is far and away the biggest killer of young men in this country, I lifted my eyebrows and exclaimed “Durrr!”
The reason for this terrible and unnecessary loss of life was immediately clear to me, but still now I feel the frustration I felt then, that nobody else sees the same glaring truth.
Having had countless homes in three continents, I’ve never lived anywhere with so few openly gay men as Ireland.
Yes, this country has made progress in its attitude towards homosexuality in the last 20 years, but you’re a heck of a long way from getting there.
It was just the same when a few black faces appeared on the streets of Galway. Everyone suddenly decided that they now lived in a multi-ethnic society, while I tried to point out that while you were still ‘spotting them’ you had a million miles to go before you became relaxedly accepting.
Most Irish people think that this country is pretty tolerant towards the LGBT community. All of them would be wrong. But what about that gay presidential candidate and that gay hurler? Pure tokenism at work, if anything highlighting the way gay Irish men are treated as exceptions, rather than as part of the norm.
‘Tolerance’ is a long and unhealthy way from ‘acceptance’. There are right now several men in Connacht who have privately and nervously come out to me, on the strict understanding that I will never reveal their identities.
Hearing their painful tales of loneliness and utter isolation, I wondered again why nobody makes the obvious link between young male Irish suicides and the challenge of coming out in Ireland.
A few years ago I sat on a local committee for Suicide Prevention. There had been a rash of young male suicides in the area, and I listened patiently while the other committee members talked at length about alcohol, drugs, unemployment and poverty, all vital contributory factors in the field of mental health. I was holding my breath, as ever aware that my London accent might sound intrusive and abrasive around this table of well-meaning locals, but eventually I had to speak out. I asked how many gay men they each knew.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
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.