Date Published: 26-Oct-2011
Galway’s yearly programme of high profile festivals and events has been held up as a shining example to other tourist destinations in the West by the authors of a shock report that shows the numbers of overseas visitors to the western seaboard have plummeted in the past decade.
The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) report said the focus of tourism in counties along the West Coast, from Donegal to Galway to Cork, badly needs a new direction if it is to arrest the worrying trend of fewer visitors, which has continued over the past ten years.
The report, New Directions for Tourism in the West, notes that an estimated 9.8 million bed nights were spent on the west coast by overseas holidaymakers in 2010. This compares with 15.1m in 1999,
a 37% fall-off in demand. Last year just over half of all nights spent by holiday visitors to Ireland were spent along the west coast, down from a situation 10 years ago when two out of three bed nights were spent west of the Shannon.
John Healy, ITIC chairman, told the Connacht Tribune that all counties in the west experienced a decline but the downward trend for South West (Cork/Kerry) and West (Galway Mayo) was less severe than for the North West or Mid-West.
“The big change is visitors are shifting towards shorter breaks and city breaks. They are staying in Dublin and not travelling west as much as they used to – the challenge for Galway and all counties along the Western seaboard is to attract the overseas visitors to come out of Dublin,” he said.
It was not all bad news; and an in-depth case study contained in the report, showed Galway was leading the way in terms of innovation in continuing to attract overseas visitors with festivals and events.
Fáilte Ireland West’s own research indicates that Galway and the West have more than held its own share this year. Fiona Monaghan of Fáilte Ireland West said Galway and the West actually outperformed other regions in 2010 and so far this year the region has continued to grow overseas visitor numbers.
“It is great to see that numbers are up. French and German visitors are coming for Connemara because they see it as an authentic Irish holiday. After Dublin and Cork/Kerry, Galway and the west is the most visited region for visitor coming from North America. The return to growth in overseas visitor numbers is very welcome although the visitors are more value conscious and they are spending less,” she said.
See full story in this week’s Connacht 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
Call for poets to enter new competition
Date Published: 24-Jan-2013
Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust is seeking entries for a new poetry competition.
The winner will have her or his poem published and displayed on the Arts Corridor of University Hospital Galway as part of the 2013 Poems for Patience. This is a long-running series which has previously featured work by leading Irish and international poets including Seamus Heaney, Philip Schultz, Michael Longley, Vona Groarke, Jane Hirschfield and Tess Gallagher.
The winner will be invited to read her or his winning poem in April, at the launch of the Poems for Patience during the Cúirt International Festival. Prizes also include accommodation in Galway for one night during Cúirt.
Poems should be less than 30 lines long and must be the entrant’s original work. The entry fee for one poem is €10. For two or more, the entry fee is €7.50 per poem. Payment should be made by cheque or postal order to Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust. The closing date is Friday, March 1.
The judge is Kevin Higgins author of several books of poetry and Writer-in-Residence with Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust.
Entries should be posted to Margaret Flannery, Arts Director, Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust, Galway University Hospitals, University Hospital, Newcastle Road, Galway. Entrants should put their names and contact details on a separate sheet.
The true story of the saint that the church wanted to airbrush
Date Published: 30-Jan-2013
Italian saint, Francis of Assisi will get a new lease of life in Francis, the Holy Jester, a free one-man show being performed at Muscailt Arts Festival on February 5.
The play about the renowned saint, who died in 1226 was written by Italian Nobel prize-winner Dario Fo, and this performance is by Mario Pirovano, a long-time collaborator with Fo, who translated the piece into English.
It embraces papal history, biblical stories, and controversial Italian politics while exploring the life of one of the Catholic Church’s most famous saints. It also shows how the medieval Church was so afraid of Francis and his relationship with ordinary people that it set about sanitising his legacy and elevating him above the reach of his followers.
Mario, who lives near to St Francis’s home of Assisi, speaks eloquently and passionately about the saint and the way that Dario Fo has brought the Francis’s message to modern audiences in a timeless, dramatic way, while casting new light on the famous Italian Franciscan monk.
But first, he explains why this was necessary.
Francis was born at the end of the 12th century and died at the age of 46. By then, he had created great embarrassment for the Church, simply because of the way he lived his life, explains Mario. He treated people in a genuinely Christian way and wanted to tell the Gospels in people’s own language rather than in Latin.
The Church hierarchy – what an awful word, he says – decided to rewrite the story of his life and, 50 years after his death, only one official account of his life was permitted by the authorities. That was written by a fellow Franciscan, St Bonaventure, who had been ordered to destroy many of Francis’s papers and write a sanitised biography. All other books on him were deemed heretical.
The Church was afraid of him, stresses Mario, and so decided to distance him from the ordinary people, by canonising him shortly after he died. Francis was the fastest saint ever produced in the history of the Church, being canonised within three years of passing on, says Mario. That took him away from ordinary people, as they felt they couldn’t aspire to such greatness.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.