Date Published: 19-Jan-2010
A GALWAY man who volunteered with an Irish charity in Haiti last year is preparing to return to the devastated country to help rebuild it from the rubble.
Myles McHugh, originally from Galway city but now living in Oranmore, travelled to Haiti as a volunteer last October with the NGO Haven; which works to build homes for the impoverished people of the Caribbean island.
He was distressed when news reached Ireland last week that a catastrophic earthquake had struck Haiti, causing widespread destruction and a death toll that is estimated to exceed 100,000.
However, the service planning manager with Iarnród Éireann was relieved to discover that his many friends among both the volunteers and the indigenous population had survived the disaster.
“The part of the island that I visited is slightly to the north of Port-au-Prince and was relatively unaffected by the earthquake; although the people there did feel the tremors and are obviously distraught at the plight of their countrymen,” said Mr McHugh.
“Thankfully the friends that I made in the orphanage, in the school and the local people in the houses we built seem to be safe and sound and the buildings that we worked on are still standing.”
He was one of 260 volunteers who raised €4,000 each and succeeded in building 40 houses, a children’s playground and an additional classroom at the adjoining school during ‘Build It’ week in the town of Ouanaminthe last October.
Undeterred by the current chaos and tragedy, Mr McHugh plans to return to Haiti later this year, when Haven will have begun a new project in the south of the island; closer to the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince.
The Irish NGO has suspended its building projects in the wake of the disaster and refocused its efforts on assisting with humanitarian aid. It dispatched two of its emergency response team from Dublin on Sunday, while its founder Leslie Buckley also left for Haiti yesterday.
Mr McHugh described the current situation as “absolutely shocking” and said that the pre-existing lack of basic healthcare facilities and infrastructure was exacerbating the country’s troubles.
“The first thing that strikes you when you cross the border from the Dominican Republic into Haiti is the unimaginable level of poverty. The country already had an almost a ‘fourth world’ standard of living before this horrific earthquake struck at all,” he said.
He said that the makeshift standard of housing that he witnessed when he was there would have offered no resistance to the violent tremors of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake.
“Many of the houses are little more than 15’ by 10’ and constructed of dried mud walls and a straw roof, which would have simply crumbled during the events of the last week.”
Haven has entered partnership with GOAL and is accepting donations at www.havenpartnership. com.
Another Galway man is currently on the frontline of the humanitarian effort in Haiti. Head of External Communications for the International Red Cross, Paul Conneally from Ballinasloe is the main English-speaking spokesperson for the organisation and is assisting in the running of a field hospital in Port-au-Prince.
The Harvard Law graduate is normally based in Geneva but has been working tirelessly on the ground in Haiti since the disaster struck a week ago. He has been sleeping outdoors in the Haitian capital and has reported experiencing heavy aftershocks on the website Twitter.
“This is the single worst disaster in the history of the organisation,” he said. “The aid effort is undeniably slower than we would want but the reality is what it is.”
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.