Date Published: 17-Jul-2007
There is something fundamentally flawed with our safeguards against sex offenders if an Irishman convicted of offences in the Netherlands can not alone work with young people here, but effectively lobby for legal changes as well.
Niall McElwee has now paid a high price for his crime, losing his career and his growing reputation in the area of childcare and drug abuse.
Those who defend him will argue that his work played a huge part in furthering the protection of children from preying careworkers. But the mere fact that he continued to lobby and campaign for such vetting procedures is richly ironic given that he slipped through that net himself.
There are no degrees of guilty when it comes to the sexual abuse of under-age children — the fact they might be five or fifteen is entirely irrelevant. And nobody should have been more aware of that than a Third Level lecturer who was working in this area in the first place.
As the director of the Centre for Child and Youth Care Learning at Athlone IT, the Athenry-based lecturer surely must have known that his position was untenable and that the truth would always come out.
It may well have been a moment of drunken madness in a Dutch hotel and out of character for a man who patently sees his role as a crusader in the fight against child sex abuse, but most of us thankfully never resort to such appalling and unacceptable behaviour in any circumstances.
One wonders how the liberal Dutch couldn’t see a prison term as the correct response to such an offence, but that’s something their judicial system has to live with.
Our responsibility is to make sure that those who perpetrate such crimes do not have access to minors in this jurisdiction.
And Dr. McElwee most certainly did.
He didn’t even seek to adopt a low profile in the aftermath of his offence — indeed quite the contrary, given his high profile pronouncements on the level of hard drug abuse in the Midlands and South East.
He now finds himself in the spotlight in a manner he most certainly would not have wished for.
But there is a price to be paid for inflicting such unacceptable trauma on minors — and Dr. McElwee is finding out just how high a price that can be.
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
Hard to lick loyalty Ð unless itÕs Green Shield Stamps
Date Published: 27-Mar-2013
Loyalty, they say, has to be earned – it cannot be bought. But tell that to the purveyors of loyalty cards, because if you spend enough to get the stamps, everything from free coffee to cheap haircuts can be yours.
You can even get a computer for your child’s school, admittedly only if you spend the equivalent of the national debt on groceries – or if you only have a million for meat and veg, you may have to settle for a plastic football.
Clothes stores have swipe cards which give you money off if you sign up by email and continue to be inundated with special offers on runners and tee-shirts until your inbox is full to overflowing.
Indeed there’s a high price paid for loyalty in the commercial world we inhabit – the average wallet now has more loyalty cards than credit cards.
But it’s not a new phenomenon – do you remember Green Shield Stamps?
You’d get yards of them to stick into your booklet, and eventually you’d collect enough books to get a set of saucepans which would duly arrive in the post.
When all of this started back in 1958, one stamp was issued for each 6d – half a shilling – that was spent on goods, so large numbers of stamps had to be stuck into the books.
The problem was that you effectively needed to spend £12,000 to buy a TV for example – at a time when the average colour television cost around £350.
At a later stage, a second denomination was added, worth ten of the original stamps, which somewhat alleviated this problem. But you’d still have a sore tongue by the time you were finished licking for your set of delft.
Indeed – and as Michael Caine might say, not many people know this – it was the Green Shield Stamps that led to the formation of Argos.
As sales slowed, Green Shield Stamp catalogue shops began to offer part stamp redemption and part cash, for the goods in their catalogue. The proportion of cash accepted was slowly increased until the goods could be purchased, outright, without the need for any stamps.
And in time, the catalogue stores, warehouses and vehicle fleet were re-branded as Argos in July 1973.
The Green Shield Stamps actually lasted until the early nineties although they had really had their day by the early eighties – but by then everyone was in on the loyalty act.
Petrol stations bought your loyalty with other kinds of gimmicks – when Esso had an outlet across from the hospital (where Tesco is now), I can recall a coin collection of the England 1970 World Cup squad.
I wasn’t driving at the time obviously – because boys under ten years of age only do that in Tallaght – but it was the prospect of acquiring a tatty gold coin bearing the head of Bobby Moore or Peter Bonetti or Bobby Charlton that steered us, literally, to the same garage every time.
And because everything eventually turns full circle, petrol stations are back with a modern version of the old routine. Topaz has announced that it is investing €3 million into the roll-out of a new loyalty app.
So no doubt it will have bells and whistles and email alerts and bonuses and incentives and whatever you’re having yourself, and the inventors will stand back and admire their work in the way that their forefathers did when they came up with the wheel.
But the truth is that it’s just a variation on a well-worn theme – and for our generation they can try all they like, but they’ll never manage to lick Green Shield Stamps.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Galway keeper Forde proving worth at international level
Date Published: 28-Mar-2013
THE joy of keeping a clean sheet in Sweden in his first competitive game as Republic of Ireland goalkeeper gave way to the despair of conceding a last-gasp equaliser to Austria in Dublin during what has been a memorable week for Galway native David Forde.
While a hectic six days ended with the frustration of conceding a 93rd minute equaliser to David Alaba at the Aviva Stadium, the Millwall ‘keeper could at least console himself that he was not at fault for either of the two goals which have put a serious dent into Ireland’s prospects of qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil next year.
Forde (33) has waited a long time to earn a regular starting berth on the Irish team, having made his debut in a friendly against Italy two years ago, and produced a near flawless performance – which included three fine saves – in Stockholm on Friday.
Forde produced two superb saves inside the first 25 minutes and marshalled a well-organised back four, his right glove denying a shot on goal for Kim Kallstrom. He produced a terrific reaction save to deny Sweden’s Rasmus Elm in injury time and punched the air in delight after holding an attack featuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoreless over 90 minutes.
Ireland needed to build on that draw with a home win over the Austrians and battled back bravely after Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark hesitated before giving the ball away cheaply, allowing Martin Harnik to open the scoring after just 11 minutes.
There was nothing Forde could do about the goal, after Clark had left him cruelly exposed, and Alaba’s late strike took a wicked deflection off Sean St Ledger before flying past the Galway man. Otherwise, Forde performed well and he produced a memorable save to deny Harnik in the 54th minute.
“It’s been a phenomenal few weeks, with some golden moments,” Forde told Tribune Sport this week. “We had three big results with Millwall just before I came back to the Irish set-up. We managed to beat Blackburn Rovers away in an FA Cup replay, to get to Wembley, before we beat Charlton in the Championship in the local derby.
“I went to Sweden on the back of a fantastic week. I have always kept plugging away. I have always kept at it. I’ve always had belief in my ability. It’s been a promising start at international level, but I still think I’ve an awful lot to do and learn.”
Determination has been the hallmark of Forde’s career. He made his League of Ireland debut with Galway United in 1999. His form was rewarded with moves to Welsh side Barry Town and, later, West Ham United. But he never got a look in for the Hammers’ first team.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.