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Galway aid worker leads GOAL effort in Syria

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Date Published: 28-Dec-2012

 HAVING worked in some of the toughest and most inhospitable places in the developing world with GOAL for more than a decade, Frank McManus’ latest challenge is perhaps the greatest he has faced yet.

The 41-year-old aid worker from the Lower Newcastle area of Galway city, and former pupil of Colaiste Iognaid, has just returned from northern Syria, where he is heading GOAL’s emergency response programme to assist families displaced by the on-going conflict.

This is just his latest assignment with the aid agency. The first, eleven-and-a-half years ago, saw him travel to Mozambique as a field accountant, and three months later, to Sierra Leone, where he took up a position as financial controller. He has since worked in Iraq, Central America, Darfur, Pakistan and Ethiopia, and in recent years was employed as GOAL’s Country Director in Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Sudan.

Having taken a career break for twelve months to complete a Masters in Development Management, Frank re-joined GOAL in October to take up a position as the organisation’s humanitarian advisor. His return to work coincided with GOAL’s decision to respond to the crisis in Syria. Having followed the situation there with interest for the past year-and-a- half, he was more than willing to play a key role in the new programme.

Since October, he has visited Syria several times and understands better than most the plight of men, women and children who have lost their homes, most of their possession and even, in the worst cases, members of their family.

“Tens of thousands of people have been driven from their homes by the conflict, which has been raging now for more than 21 months,” he explains. “Many of them have little access to the basic essentials of life such as clean water, food, medical aid and warm clothing and blankets. Families are being forced to take shelter in public buildings, schools, farm sheds and under trees.”

Although GOAL has already supplied thousands of blankets and 25 tonnes of flour to more than 15,000 people displaced families in the northern Syrian provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, and is planning more aid deliveries in the coming weeks, there are many thousands of families that GOAL will not be able to assist unless it receives the required funding.

Currently, there are more than two million displaced people within Syria. In total, in excess of three million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The UN expects this latter number to exceed four million by the beginning of 2013.

“There is a huge sense of frustration at the moment. Although we have completed our needs assessments, found a viable programme area, identified capable, trustworthy and hardworking local partners, and established access routes for supplies, the lack of funds coming through means we have been unable to respond at the level that we would like.

With the onset of winter, the plight of families with young children is becoming particularly acute in the north of the country, where temperatures are expected to drop to almost freezing.

“During a recent planning meeting one of our partners turned to me and said that when the conflict ends the people of the world will not be able to say they did not know of the suffering that went on in Syria; that they didn’t know about the millions of men, women and children who lacked basic services or access to sufficient levels of food.

“And at that time, the question will be asked – knowing what we knew at the time – what did we do about it? “As things stand, the simple answer will be ‘not enough’.”

Frank McManus returned to Syria yesterday.

For the full interview see this week’s Tribune

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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