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Hope Ð in a week when the IMF come calling to the door

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Date Published: {J}

I’m not sure just how we should describe the arrival of those people from the International Monetary Fund who are staying in a flash hotel in Dublin – would they be correctly described as examiners, receivers, or liquidators?

I have a theory that they might fall into some kind of hybrid category that would be a mixture of examiner and receiver – the latter role to see if Ireland Inc can continue to be run as a going concern.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when the difference between the three categories was a matter of theory learnt all those years ago in Business Studies. Maybe my memory is playing tricks, but I do not remember the status of examiner existing then.

There was also a time when ‘bonds’ were something that existed only on the pages of Bonfire Of The Vanities. Now, if I go into the average pub, someone is ringing Joe Duffy on a mobile to talk about ‘yields rising’. The only other impression is that ‘Government stock is falling’.

 Like a lot of people, I am struggling to understand how it all came to this – it’s a bit like all of us went to a party and now the bill has come in. We appear to have had plenty of rules which should have prevented banks acting like utter idiots, but the implementation of the rules was a total joke.

As the IMF men and women with the briefcases and laptops trawl through our situation, it is difficult to see much hope . . . and certainly not from the politicians, some of whom seemed to be suggesting that, because we are such a ‘basket case’, we are in a stronger position than we might otherwise be the case.

On the basis of that argument, people like Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Fingleton and their buddies in the banks who lost the run of themselves, should have dished out maybe tens of billions more. Then, we really would have had the Germans and French in the spot where we wanted them!

I am glad to say, however, that I found a haven of solace, a place of some hope in the past week. Iit was in NUI Galway where the former boss of Intel, Dr Craig T. Barrett, was spelling out what we needed to do to ensure our future, and he had a message of hope that, maybe, with a bit of commonsense and the brain-power of young people, we could turn the corner.

I loved his line where he said that, unless we used our brains to outwit, outsmart, out-think and be better than others . . . then it was likely that we would find that someone in China, India, or indeed the US, had ‘eaten our lunch’.

Dr Barrett is a lanky grey-haired man who looks uncannily like the late Dr John Kenneth Galbraith – the economist who wrote a tiny but immensely readable history of the 1929 Great Crash in the US. Maybe we might have learnt something from it – that boom before that bust was built on the basis that everyone could be rich by having a go on the stock market.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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

Looking sharp as Cœirt approaches

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Date Published: 11-Apr-2013

 Images of books and pencils will be placed outside Tí Neachtain on Quay Street this weekend as a reminder to people that the Cúírt International Festival of Literature is on its way,

Every year Cúirt creates displays of writing tools in venues around the city, reflecting the themes of the event. This year, shop windows in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, Dubray’s Books, Busker Brownes and McCambridges will feature. These windows will display headshots of participating Cuirt authors, themes from their books and emblems of authors.

The Tí Neachtain window display will be centred on The Crime Panel, reflecting the strong input from crime writers into this year’s festival. Meanwhile other windows feature literary quotes in vinyl. This year’s Cúirt symbol of a typewriter will also feature prominently.

Cuirt begins on April 23. The official launch will take place in The Hotel Meyrick at 6.15pm on Wednesday, April 24 when President of Ireland Michael D Higgins will do the honours.

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Archive News

Political gatherings in the west prove stark reminder of contrasting fortunes

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Date Published: 17-Apr-2013

 Two parties held their party conferences last weekend – and both present pictures of deeply contrasting fortunes.

One is on the rise. Another has fallen and the words equine and deceased and flogging come to mind every time you think about its chances of recovery.

We’ll start with the latter first. The Greens held its convention in Galway over the course of the weekend. Not only has the party’s fortunes diminished but it has also taken on a guise of secrecy. It didn’t really publicise its convention and it consequently hardly caused a ripple in the national media. As Connacht Tribune journalist Ciaran Tierney wittily but cruelly tweeted at the weekend, the convention might have been held in the snug at Tigh Neachtain.

Eighty kilometres up the road in Castlebar, Sinn Fein was holding its Ard Fheis. In contrast, it got saturation coverage. You couldn’t switch on TV or open a newspaper without seeing Mary Lou McDonald’s copious new beehive or a full frontal Gerry Adams’ smile.

In 2007 the shoe was on the other foot. Six years ago the Greens held an annual conference in Galway, attended by hundreds of delegates. The party seemed on an upswing then and there was widespread coverage of the conference, with lots of talks of the Greens going into government.

The polls showed that they could add to their six Dail seats and become a real force in Irish politics. By contrast, whatever about the North, Sinn Fein was struggling to assert itself in the south. It had four TDs in 2007 but the polls suggested it was not capturing the public imagination.

As events unfolded, both parties underperformed in the 2007 general elections. Society seemed settled and content then (it was the height of the Celtic Tiger after all) and smaller parties got squeezed as voters plumped for the two established parties.

Labour flat-lined at 20 seats. The Greens went into the election with six seats and emerged with six seats. Sinn Fein saw its total fall from five seats to four. The Progressive Democrats got wiped completely. And the number of independents also fell from 13 to five.

The story of the subsequent years is well known. The Greens went into government with Fianna Fáil and did okay for about two years until the economic crisis was fully felt. Afterwards it was all downhill. Both parties lashed themselves to the mast of a ship sinking in a hurricane and tried to do what they could to keep it afloat.

The party lost all its seats at the last election. What was half forgotten too was that it had a lousy local election in 2009 and lost 13 of its sixteen council seats. And then to compound its misery, the party failed to get two per cent of the national vote. What that meant was that it did not qualify for any State funding.

So when it began to survey the mess in 2011, all it had were three county councillors and it was broke.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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