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Good Friday drink demand symptomatic of never knowing when to stop

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

There is only one day of the year when Ireland is asked to abstain from alcohol – but the drive for drink on Good Friday would lead you to believe that a drought is a distinct possibility.

The Holy Thursday queues at the drink counter have an air of desperate quest for bread you’d have seen in Moscow at the height of the old Soviet Union.

Now, because there’s a rugby match in Limerick, the Mayor – urged on by the publicans – wants to see the pubs open so that supporters can toast their success or drown their sorrows. So is it any wonder that the world sees us as a nation of Riverdancing drunkards?

We don’t need the pubs open on Good Friday no more than we need them open on Christmas Day – but we do need reform of the licensing laws if we’re to prevent another growing phenomenon from taking even greater root.

Pubs should be closed on Good Friday, but off licences might as well stay open; not so they can sell more drink, but simply so that the orgy of alcohol can start a little later in the day.

Of course that also depends on an increased level of responsible behaviour on the part of a substantial number of off licences and drink sellers – and that’s not a given by a long shot.

The current trend is to stock up the night before, but this – according to those who deal with the effects of alcohol and addiction – means there’s an even earlier start to drinking the next day. At least if they were waiting for the off licences to open, it might reduce the impact on A&E before tea-time.

The last week in Galway was proof positive of this; there were students who were completely out of it well before lunchtime. We had them down our road, laden down with cans and bottles, walking out in front of traffic, utterly oblivious to anything going on around them – by midday.

 It’s not the College’s fault because these students are apparently adults. But you’d love to send pictures home to mammy and daddy who are presumably funding this extravagance, so that they could see where their hard-earned cash is going.

These students were presumably leading from the front again yesterday as they ‘drowned’ themselves and the shamrock to a depth of several feet. But they weren’t the only ones – as the flowing urine and broken bottles on the streets can testify.

And it is not just anecdotal evidence that suggests part of the problem is caused by stacking up on drink the night before.

The numbers presenting themselves for treatment at addiction centres now is higher than it was during the boom years – and the age profile is getting younger.

Nobody is suggesting that the only factor behind this is drink, but it is a major player – and while the pubs operate with a fair degree of responsibility, the same cannot be said of the off licences.

Supermarkets provide easier access for younger drinkers and the price of takeaways has never been cheaper. If you’re underage and can’t buy it yourself, there’s plenty who will do it for you.

Of course drugs play a large part too in the whole equation; prescription drugs like Valium are freely available on the black market, imported through Northern Ireland and then sold through the third-level network.

The head shops are the newest phenomenon, always staying one step ahead of the law because every time some of the product is banned, it re-emerges under a new name.

Reports suggest that well over a dozen people a month – mainly aged between 18 and 21 – are presenting themselves for psychiatric treatment in Galway alone as a result of their purchases from Head Shops.

There may well be more but because the west doesn’t have a HSE-designated addiction treatment centre, space is at a premium – and unless you have health insurance, you will face a six to nine month delay for help.

All of this is a long way from whether or not Munster fans should be able to have a few pints on Good Friday, but it’s symptomatic of our unhealthy relationship with alcohol and our apparent inability to celebrate any occasion without trying to drown ourselves in drink.

I love my few pints every bit as much as the next man, so this isn’t about prohibition – it’s about responsible drinking and the removal of illegal substances,or those on the borderline, from the market.

We have a crisis that is getting worse and growing in all sorts of new directions, and we have no Government determination or HSE drive to tackle it.

So open the off licences on Good Friday because we won’t stop people drinking to excess anyway and we might actually stop them stacking up.

But more importantly, put the sort of resources into tackling addiction that we do tackling any other disease. And stop trying to push a massive problem under the carpet.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



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

Rory takes on fresh challenge as lauded DruidMurphy returns

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 03-Apr-2013


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Archive News

After twenty years Sarah lands dream role in Druid

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 04-Apr-2013

 Sarah Lynch has been living and breathing Druid Theatre since she wangled a job as a runner fresh out of college two decades ago at age 20. After holding down just about every role imaginable there – from company manager to director to stage manager – her appointment as general manager to one of the country’s most prestigious theatre companies last October seemed almost inevitable.

Because once she had tasted the fruit of Druid she was going nowhere . . . and going everywhere. Sarah’s tenure at Druid since 1998 has brought her on a journey that has reached just about every corner of the globe and almost all the islands off Ireland in between.

After graduating from Limerick with a degree in French and English Sarah spent a stint teaching in a secondary school. But it immediately became clear that wasn’t the road for her.

“One thing I was always certain of was I’d be involved in the performing arts, whether on stage or off stage or behind it. The immediate reaction of the audience is such a buzz,” she grins.

Her earliest memory was of her grandfather, Bud Clancy, on stage with his trumpet and dance band. “I must have been three or four because he died shortly after that. But it never left me. I got bitten by the bug. I started playing the trumpet. A friend of my grandfather taught me how to play and I was with the Limerick brass and reed orchestra known as the Boherbuoy Band, I was just a kid with all these adults.”

She learned to play other brass instruments such as the French horn and cornet before turning her hand to the guitar and song-writing. “I taught myself guitar. Sometime I tinker on the piano and I think that’s my next instrument. I love percussion. You can’t get me off a drum kit for love or money. Many is the night I’ve made a fool of myself on one of those,” she laughs.

In 2010, Sarah released her debut album, Letter to Friends, which was launched by playwright Enda Walsh, whose short play, Lynndie’s Gotta Gun, she had directed as part of the 2008 Galway Arts Festival.

The collection of songs was produced by Wayne Sheehy, a musician she had met when opening for Juliet Turner on Turner’s Burn the Black Suit tour.

“I could probably have done it ten years ago but for the manic schedule with Druid and touring so much,” she reflects. “I haven’t done much with it since. I used to play gigs in the Róisín Dubh. The bigger twin is theatre at the moment. The bigger twin bullies the other twin. You don’t get much time to do music.”

After fleeing the classroom, Sarah knocked on the door of a former college mate, Andrew Flynn, now with the Galway Youth Theatre, who kindly offered up his couch. He also managed to get her a job as a runner – the person who does everything from making tea to helping with props – on a Druid production of As You Like It.

“I remember working with Mark O’Halloran, I had great fun with him. There was Helen Norton, it was Maeliosa Stafford directing. He’s coming back to the Druid after ten years to star in Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark. He left me as a runner, now I’m general manager.”

Much of Sarah’s time behind the scenes at Druid has been spent on the road. In 2009 alone, Druid toured to Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA presenting 364 performances in 26 venues.

Indeed so much of life has been out spent living of a suitcase that she gave up her base in Galway to move back in with her family in Caherdavin, on the Galway side of Limerick city.

The tour of the Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh was so long the crew were instructed to pack two suitcases, one with summer clothes, the other winter gear, as they would be spanning the seasons. Her job now entails a lot of commuting, but driving is where she gets a lot of thinking done.

Sarah’s decision to apply for the more home-based job of general manager was one she made discreetly while on the Druid Murphy tour around the US. She had to undergo her interview in between shows at the Lincoln Center in New York. It was the most nerve wrecking experience of her life, she admits.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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