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Green image can help us earn our way out of crisis

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Date Published: {J}

All right, what can we do? Getting the country out of this mire means replacing a busted economic model with one that works. We need, putting it bluntly, to make some cash. How?

No point in deciding to suddenly get into satellite launching or ocean-floor mining. We’ve got to play to our strengths, see what we’ve got going for us and go with that. And near the top of any list of Ireland’s advantages has to be our relatively clean environment. The fact that we’ve had so little industrialisation in the past, plus the fact that the country gets thoroughly washed down about every third day, makes it possibly the least polluted state in the developed world. We have advantages that other supposedly clean countries just can’t match.

Switzerland for example is too close for comfort to industrialised areas of France, Germany and Italy. Go up an Alp and you can count the nuclear power stations.

But the real advantage is not just that Ireland actually is relatively clean, but that it is perceived to be. The country is pictured as largely unspoiled, even undeveloped, and that image is so embedded that even the recent efforts have not greatly marred it. We should be trading on this far more than we do. Too much of our agricultural produce is undistinguished quota-meeting stuff, when we are capable of growing the unusually good. Irish apples for example – available now! – are fantastic. It breaks my heart that supermarkets are full of apples imported from France or, God help us, Brazil when native ones have so much more taste. OK, the factory-farmed ones look better. They look like the cartoon apples on apple packaging. Mass-produced fruit is its own packaging – and it’s beginning to taste like it.

Ireland should build a national brand of organic, traditional, GM-free food, at the high price rather than the high volume end of the market. But agriculture is nothing like sufficient to create all the jobs and wealth we’ll need. The service industries have proved themselves to be unreliable. To make real money you have to make real things. Ireland needs a lot more manufacturing.

Am I crazy? Nobody ‘makes things’ anymore. Well, nobody except the Chinese and we can’t compete with their enormous, suspiciously prison-like factories. Admittedly, we can’t compete at the low cost, high volume end. But that is just one specialisation. Throughout the world, countries are making lots of money by manufacturing the things they are famous for, like cars from Germany or phones from Finland. We need our manufacturing niche.

But wait, is not manufacturing in direct conflict with the image of a clean environment? No – not if we do it right. We’ve already made a good start, most of the manufacturing we have is in the squeaky-clean areas of medical devices and microprocessors, but we can capitalise on this a lot more. There will be ever-increasing demand for clean, sustainable technologies; new low-pollution equipment for example, the machinery needed to generate renewable energy.

Many countries can offer Green technology of course, and many can even make it in sustainable ways. But can they make it in an environment that is unsullied by previous centuries of dirty industry? No – but we can. We can make the cleanest machines.

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

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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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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