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Memories of clangers and canvass at the Galway Races

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The bell would have tolled for Galway Races if Harry's headline of a £13 'bonanza' for one Race Week was true

I have been over a quarter of a century working as a journalist and have written many thousands of articles. These days I come across stuff I wrote a decade or even two decades ago and I can’t remember – and then there are stories you never forget.

The first category is big ones on which your reputation, for what it is, is built. I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list of all my gaiscí (there are so many!). Lately I was clearing out the attic of my old house and came across an article from 1994. It was an interview with the INLA member, and notorious paramilitary, Dominic McGlinchey, only ten days before he was gunned down in Drogheda. Every sentence of that has been seared into my memory.

Then there are the very unusual ones, more often than not they involve travel to an exotic foreign destinations.

Or a dangerous one; including trips I made to conflict zones when I was young and single and did not care all that much about the consequences.

The third category comprises the stuff you want to forget but never can. They include clangers and disasters – from a silly embarrassing typographical error to a huge defamation that will cost you sleepless nights and might ruin your reputation.

I’ve been threatened with libel actions a few times but have never been successfully sued. When the legal letter comes in it has the same effect on your body as a needle piercing a balloon. It’s awful.

Thankfully, the legal actions that were threatened withered on the vine. It’s more to do with me being ultra-cautious and risk averse rather than adopting a ‘publish and be damned’ attitude.

Don’t get me wrong. Nowadays, we journalists are processing so much copy each week that it makes it more difficult to be correct. The human hard-disk is always vulnerable to viruses. One virus is fallibility. Another is the journalist making a hopelessly wrong assumption that goes straight into the article, unthinkingly.

In that category falls the stuff that is not serious but merely embarrassing.

One early example is topical and prescient as it provides the trigger for the argument I’m making in the rest of the article.

Very early on in my career in The Connacht Tribune, I was asked to write the main story for the city edition about the Galway Races that was starting the following week.

Obviously it was late July, the slowest time of year for news stories. The piece would be a speculative piece, guessing how much that year’s race would be worth to the city.

It involved getting an estimate on attendance and the possible tote takings. Then you multiplied that number by two or three to get the figure for non-tote betting and off-course betting.

Then you estimated how many hotel and guest rooms there were in the city and guessed the average charge.

Then you threw in the copious amounts of money that might be spent on drink and gambling and food and shopping and this, that and the other.

And then you came up with a figure.

My mistake wasn’t the figure. I was young and had done all my phone calls dutifully and had come up with a figure that was big enough to satisfy the editor.

My mistake was a typographical one. The intro was supposed to read. “Galway is set to benefit from a record £13 million splurge during next week’s Race Week, predicted to be the biggest in its history.”

Newspapers never spare the superlatives. My mistake was I somehow managed to leave the ‘million’ word out in the first sentence and in every subsequent sentence. So the net result was the biggest race meeting in memory would benefit the city to the tune of £13.

Cue red-faced embarrassment. It was just awful. The slag from my colleagues in the newsroom on Market Street was intolerable.

For more of Harry’s tales of the Galway Races see this week’s Tribune here

 

Connacht Tribune

Will ‘vaccine bounce’ prove crucial to by-election victory?

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Noel Treacy...a rare by-election win for the ruling party.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

By-elections sometimes mean everything – and sometimes they mean nothing at all. Because often, by the time a general election takes place, they have faded away into the past. They have no impact at all on the national level.

That doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some memorable and crucial by-elections.

Like way back in 1982, when Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, who had a minority government, engineered a coup by nominating a Fine Gael TD, Richard Burke, to be Ireland’s European Commissioner.

Burke was a TD for Dublin West which was a Fianna Fáil stronghold at the time. The idea was the party’s candidate would win the subsequent by-election to give Fianna Fáil a majority in the Dáil.

But things did not go to script. Fine Gael’s candidate was a local businessman named Liam Skelly who bucked the trend by taking the seat in an audacious victory for Fine Gael.

Another significant by-election was in 2010 in Donegal South West. Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher had won a seat in the European Parliament in 2009 and the Fianna Fáil-led government had dilly-dallied over holding an election to fill the vacant seat.

The long-fingering eventually resulted in a court case taken by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty – which he won, amid huge publicity.

The narrative, of course, was that Fianna Fáil were trying to shut him out. By that stage they probably were. Doherty won a massive victory for his party, getting elected in the first count.

I have always believed that this victory alone provided much of the momentum for the big gains Sinn Féin made in the following election.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Vaccine programme shows we’ve turned Covid corner

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Success story…Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking with peer vacinator Anne Kennedy and clinical lead Sharon Fahy on his visit the Ballybrit Vaccination Centre in Galway.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Are we near the end? Have we finally got on top of Covid-19 for good?  Certainly, the news coming from the vaccination programme is good. More than good – it’s brilliant. The whole thing has been run so efficiently that we did a double-take at the signage in the centre to make sure they were in English and Irish, and not in German.

In Ireland, governments get very rare victories – but this has been one. More than one million jabs – between 250,000 to 300,000 each week – will have been given out during May alone.

That looks set to continue apace in June – despite the huge disruption caused to the Health Services Executive by the cyberattack from Russian hackers – with well over a million administered then.

At this moment, those in the age range of 40 upwards are getting vaccines or are getting appointments. Of course, there is always uncertainty over supplies (AstraZeneca and Janssen supplies have had periods of being sporadic). But the workhorse of the system, Pfizer BioNTech, has continued to deliver, and at scale.

So it now looks like the Government will meet its target of giving at least one vaccination shot to 82 per cent of the eligible population by the end of June.

Given the challenges involved with a nationwide programme, it is some achievement.

Being over the age of 50, I got my shot last week. It was all done seamlessly: I registered online, got a text a few days later telling me to go to the Aviva two days later.

It was strange lining up with people the same age as you, to see how kind or otherwise age had been to them. It took about two hours and the queuing was a bit like the rigmarole you go through when boarding an aircraft. But it was grand. It was all very smooth.

At this moment, about 18 to 20 percent of the population is fully vaccinated (having got two shots). Most of those are in the older cohort.

You can see the impact that has had. While daily case numbers have stayed stubbornly around the 400 mark, the number of deaths and hospitalisations has fallen.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

Johnson once again shows his disdain for Irish matters

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Boris Johnson: anger over his apology to families.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

After half a century, almost a lifetime, a thin beam of justice seemed finally to appear for the families of the 10 people shot dead by British Army paratroopers in Ballymurphy, Belfast in August 1971.

The Belfast Coroner found that all 10 were innocent and that nine had been shot by British Army paratroopers, at a time when internment had been introduced. There was uncertainty about who shot the tenth person, with the possibility of a loyalist paramilitary not being totally excluded.

Among those who had been killed were a mother of eight, and a parish priest. The Coroner said she was convinced the priest was a peacemaker who was shot in the back.

Last week his brother, Patsy, now in his 80s said: “It was nice to hear that. He was a peacemaker. For 50 years, my brother was accused of being a gunman, which was all untrue. I knew it was untrue, but people didn’t know it.”

It’s terrible to think of the legacy of such acts, how people have to carry that sense of injustice with them for a lifetime. We have seen it with the victims of the Stardust Fire, or the various State institutions that incarcerated children (and expectant mothers); of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and indeed, of the 1971 Arms Plot trail.

The response of political parties in this State to the Ballymurphy verdict was uniform. The Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he hoped it would bring some solace to the family survivors who have spent so many fruitless years campaigning for justice. Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney referred to it shining a light of justice on a particularly dark era in Northern history.

The response from Sinn Féin was more flinty. Michelle O’Neill spoke about it being murder. The party leader Mary Lou McDonald pointed to the imminent move by the British Government to give amnesty to those accused of criminal acts in the period before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Unfortunately, the response of the British Government was also uniform. It was not surprising that there was an angry reaction to Boris Johnson’s apology to the families.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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