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Kids get tongue around Chinese as East meets West in schools



Date Published: 01-Nov-2012

It is a scene that is repeated in classrooms throughout the country, and has been for generations – the teacher walks in, says a greeting, and the class responds as one. The same . . . but yet, completely different.

It is just past 11.45am on a Tuesday when Sixth Class in Scoil Mhuire in Maree greets their teacher, not with ‘good morning’, but with the very different ‘ni hao’ – ‘hello’ in the Chinese language, Mandarin.

The regular Sixth Class teacher in the school is Cathal Duffy, but he steps aside for 45 minutes or so every Tuesday for Jia-Li, a young Chinese student who travels up from Cork every week to deliver Mandarin classes in three neighbouring Galway schools – Scoil Mhuire in Maree; Scoil Mhuire in Clarinbridge; and Calasanctius College in Oranmore.

Jia is studying at Shanghai University to become a teacher, specialising in teaching Chinese as a foreign language, and as part of her course, she is spending this academic year attached to the Confucius Institute in University College Cork.

As part of her internship/volunteer course work, she travels to Galway every Tuesday to teach in the three Galway schools, starting in Maree. She gets the 8am bus from Patrick’s Quay in Cork, and is met at the bus-stop opposite GMIT by Dermot Cleary, the principal at the Maree school.

“It is a long day for her coming up on the bus from Cork early on Tuesday morning, and not getting back until late in the evening, it is basically a 12-hour day, so we really appreciate the effort she is putting in,” says Dermot, as he puts the kettle on in the school staffroom.

So where did the idea of introducing classes in Mandarin to some of the pupils under his care come from?

“This is something I looked at a couple of years ago, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t come to fruition. We would also be on the lookout for new things to introduce the children to, but it just didn’t happen a couple of years ago.

“This time around, however, Fidelma Healy Eames had a contact with Professor Hong Fan in the Confucius Institute in Cork, and it emerged from there, and the children absolutely love it,” he says.

Senator Eames – who lives about a kilometre away from the school – says it is clear that the workplace is changing, and with Mandarin set to make it on to a revamped Junior Certificate syllabus, she felt the time was right to introduce a pilot project to see how Irish children took to the new language.

“I have received very positive feedback from the three schools, so I am delighted it is going so well. Mandarin will be one of the new short courses on the Junior Cert, so it was time to look at rolling out a pilot project, and I had a contact in Professor Fan Hong in Cork, and it evolved from there,” she explains.

The initial project is being run on a 10-week basis, from October up until Christmas, though all sides are keen for it to continue in the New Year.

“It is 12-hour day, and I tired in the morning at the start, but not now, I used to it,” says Jia on the short trip from Maree to Clarinbridge for her second class of the day. “I like it [teaching] very much, the children very kind and very interested,” she explains.

The interest is certainly there from the children’s point of view – during her class in Maree NS there is a tremendous, and constant, interaction between herself and the class.

“Miss, what’s Australia in Mandarin?”; “Miss, what does Jackie Chan’s name mean in Chinese?”; “Miss, how long does it take to write a sentence in Chinese letters?” are just some of the questions asked by the 26-strong class. The interest amongst the children is clear to see.

“Being honest, we didn’t know how it would go, but you can see how the children are really getting in to it, and it is something we would like to continue and develop,” Dermot says after the class.

“We would always encourage giving the children an introduction to other cultures – some of the classes learn Spanish, for example. Education is as much about that as it is about the curriculum, so we were delighted to take this opportunity to introduce Chinese to our Sixth Class.

“You can see that the workplace has changed so much in the past few years, there is much more global contact now, so we jumped at the chance to give the children even a small grounding in the language of a country that has become so important on a commercial scale.

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

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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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First local bragging rights of the new season go to Mervue Utd



Date Published: 18-Mar-2013

Mervue United 2

Salthill Devon 1

Jason Byrne at Fahy’s Field

Mervue United have earned the early bragging rights in the latest instalment of a derby clash with their old rivals Salthill Devon thanks to first half goals from Tom King and youngster Ryan Manning at Fahy’s Field on Friday night.

Old teammates were re-united on the field as the likes Jason Molloy, Tom King, Gary Curran, Paul Sinnott and new Devon signing Derek O’Brien were among the names who used to wear the maroon of dormant Galway United.

Mervue came out of the blocks strongly and Curran unleashed the first meaningful shot after six minutes which failed to trouble Ronan Forde and glanced wide.

Two minutes later, former Mervue striker Enda Curran fired Devon’s first effort from distance but steered well clear of the target.

Almost immediately at the other end, Mervue thought they had taken the lead when King was released into the box and his shot squirmed under Forde towards goal, but Devon skipper Eugene Greaney was at hand to clear off the line.

Three minutes later, an almost identical move was executed by Mervue as Brendan Lavelle played King in, who this time opted to dink over the advancing Forde for a marvellous finish to give Mervue a deserved 1-0 lead.

Mervue immediately searched for another as Manning picked out Varley, and with his cross he searched for Lavelle but William Enubele cleared just as Lavelle was about to head it.

From the resulting corner, Manning whipped it in to Varley, whose shot was well blocked by Colm Horgan.

A second goal was coming, and it arrived on 18 minutes when King played a neat exchange with Paul Sinnott and he squared for Manning, who shot first-time to bag his first League of Ireland goal.

Following this it looked as if Mervue could further stretch their lead by half-time, but Devon kept their heads up and as a result of their hard work they eventually began to find their feet.

As the interval drew closer O’Brien – who had been eventually signed by Devon just hours before the kick-off – collected a long hopeful ball from Forde and cut inside but blazed over with the goal at his mercy.

Five minutes later, Enda Curran won a loose ball and his pace proved too much for Michael McSweeney but his shot was well saved by Gleeson.

On the break Mervue pelted forward and Lavelle saw another effort blocked by the omnipresent Greaney who was a rock at the back. Lavelle collected again and squared for Manning, but this time he mishit his shot and Forde caught easily.

On the stroke of half-time the teenager had another go at bagging his second but his free-kick sailed well over into the astroturf cages at Fahy’s Field.

A crowd of almost 300 people made their way to the east side of the city to witness the encounter, and perhaps a mixture of the heavy rain in the hour before kick-off along with the racing at Cheltenham earlier in the day affected the attendance.

The second-half failed to prove as entertaining as the first as Devon kept fighting hard to claw back into the contest and prevent a third goal which would have ended their chances of getting points on the board.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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Festival whets the appetite for new food experiences



Date Published: 21-Mar-2013

I know it’s hard to believe, but there are well-grounded, consistent reports in recent weeks that Fianna Fáil nationally has been receiving a large number of new applications for membership of the party.

When I heard it first, I thought to myself – sounds like new recruits to join the crew of the Titanic. Now, I’m beginning to wonder if they knew something that the rest of us didn’t.

For, FF showed a bounce in two recent opinion polls. And then George Lee did his walkout from Fine Gael, leaving FG and Enda Kenny to watch anxiously in the coming months as further polls come in, and the Kenny leadership comes under renewed pressure.


Fine Gael is still well ahead in the polls, but you write off FF at your peril. The old Fianna Fáil ‘faith’ still runs deep even among many of those who are now angry at the way the country was allowed to run on to the economic rocks under FF stewardship.

On the face of it, it sounds like FF shouldn’t be an even vaguely attractive prospect for new members . . . you can be damn sure that FF unpopularity was one of the main reasons that Galway West TD Noel Grealish (formerly of the PDs and now Independent) wouldn’t touch joining the FF Parliamentary Party with a barge pole and has been flexing his political muscle in recent months as an Independent.

That’s despite FF Ministers Eamon Ó Cuív and Noel Dempsey courting Grealish for months to join FF, with even speculation of a junior ministry ‘sweetener’ at some stage when Brian Cowen eventually carries out that long-threatened reshuffle.

Wonder if Grealish would reconsider now? For there’s no denying that in recent weeks in FF there has been a sneaking dawning feeling that, if they could just hold off the General Election until 2012, then maybe – just maybe! – at least their bedrock support might have come back by then and the massacre of FF TDs might not be quite as bloody as has been predicted for the past year.

Why, some FFrs believe they might even have enough TDs left to cosy-up to the Labour Party. That’s provided of course they can hold out to 2012 and their government partners, the Greens, don’t tear themselves apart in the meantime with their habit of washing dirty linen in public.

People like Grealish would have been hoping that some of the FF voters might go for the ‘first cousin’ in the shape of a former PD like himself – well weren’t the PDs just a family row in FF? The big test for angry or wavering FF supporters on election day in a place like Galway West would be just how many of them would vote Fine Gael? I have always been of the belief that ‘the hand would wither’ before they could give ‘the blueshirts’ a vote.

Meanwhile, in the past few weeks, the pressure has transferred to Fine Gael. They are the ones who now have to worry about any slippage in support, they have convince us that they could run the economy better . . . and against this shaky new background, they also have to worry about ‘upping their game’ in key areas like Galway West.

One of the most recent opinion polls showed the highest regional level of support for Fine Gael as being in Connacht-Ulster, which was traditionally the area which Fianna Fáil could count on as heartland. That has to be ‘the Enda Kenny factor’ coming through in constituencies close to his Mayo base, where FG had a huge 53% of the first preferences in 2007.

For more, read page 12 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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