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Iris livens up northern politics for us all

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Date Published: 12-Jan-2010

THE BBC understandably dressed it up as a financial scandal, grounded by allegations of donations from developers being channelled into fulfilling a young boy’s dream – but in reality the Spotlight investigation into the strange life and times of Iris Robinson was a sex scandal without the titillation.

And if Iris did manage to make a 19 year old boy’s dreams come true, they were probably more in tandem with the ambitions of the original Mrs Robinson in The Graduate than with facilitating him to open his own restaurant on the side of canal.

It goes without saying that whatever happens between Peter and Iris Robinson behind the closed doors is their own business – even if it involves teenage boys who want to be restaurateurs – but if they insist on leaving the curtains open, it’s damned hard not to look.

And of course we should be looking at the bigger picture, weighing up the enormous political implications of a power vacuum at the top of the DUP, but dammit there’s been Oscar-winning movies made with thinner plots than this.

Northern Ireland’s gay community must be feeling particularly smug given the fire and brimstone stance that Iris adopted on their way of life – she should have remembered the analogy of glasshouses and stone throwing before she started down this road.

This was a game of poker played out across the media because once the Robinsons knew that Spotlight were on to them – thanks to not one but two whistleblowers with a lot to whistle about – they attempted to get their retaliation in first.

The sight of Peter Robinson in his brown jumper and brown armchair raking over the coals of his 40 year marriage was not something that anyone could take pleasure from – those tears were real and his anguish was there for all to see.

But only he knows if he’d have taken this route had Spotlight not put some very specific questions to him regarding his wife’s financial affairs – and any knowledge he might have had of them – just 24 hours earlier.

As it turned out, Spotlight clearly decided to bring the broadcast of their findings forward by a week or two – and that blew the whole thing clean out of the water.

Their justification was always the money; the two cheques for £25,000 each from two developers, the £5,000 kick-back to Iris for financial services rendered, and the demands for the money back when the fun was over – with the Robinson’s own branch of the Presbyterian Church drawn into the mix as well.

So you have sex, politics and financial scandal all wrapped up with a neat bow on it – and best of all, it was real life.

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

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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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