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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

Corporation Tax provides cash for Budget giveaway

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Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe: "the needs of the people are significant".

World of Politics with Harry McGee

I have seen some extraordinary budgets in my time. There were the giveaway budgets (Fianna Fáil 2001 and again in 2007) just before general elections.

There were the Covid budgets that allowed enough cash to pay everybody still in a job and pay everybody who was out of a job.

There were the hair shirt budgets (from 2008 to 2014) when the country was going down the tubes.

And there was Charlie McCreevy’s infamous decentralisation budget which was a great idea but a lousy way to go about it.

This week’s Budget fitted snugly into that category of out-of-the ordinary. In addition to a whopping €6.9 billion of additional funding in the Budget itself, there was an estimated €4.1bn extra in once-off spending in the cost-of-living package. So that’s €11 billion in spending altogether on Tuesday. It’s a big chunk of change in anybody’s language.

It was pure auction politics. First the Government said it would put an additional €1 billion in the once-off package, then it said it would put €2 billion into it, then we heard rumours of €3 billion and now it’s topped €4bn. Of course, the auction was joined into by the Opposition. They have all proposed packages that will involve considerably more spending than the Government’s Euromillions. Sinn Fein is at €13.5 billion. God knows what People Before Profit proposes to spend (it’s not easy to quantify) but its stratospheric. At least its message of spending everything we have got, nationalising everything we have got, is consistent.

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

Prodigal son Bertie could be set for return to the fold

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Bertie Ahern speaking at the announcement of the Good Friday Agreement.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

I’d actually forgotten that Bertie Ahern wasn’t a member of Fianna Fáil until the issue was brought up at the parliamentary party meeting of TDs and senators last week.

He was in Coventry or Purdah – or wherever politicians with a whiff of scandal around them are put – for a number of years but he’s been back at the centre of the political and public stage for so long now, you begin to forget that he was ever away.

And so last week, Donegal senator Niall Blaney stood up and addressed his colleagues right at the end of the meeting. He said 2023 would mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The party needed to put its best foot forward to commemorate it.

Out of the blue, he then said that should include welcoming Bertie Ahern back into the party fold. He called on the party to act in “a spirit of inclusivity”.

It was one of those moments that Conamara people have a great expression for. ‘Tháinig sé Aniar Aduaidh orainn’ (it surprised us from the North West).

It had not been on the meeting agenda but now it was very much on the party’s agenda. Others piped up. Offaly TD Barry Cowen said that the time had come to readmit Ahern to Fianna Fáil. Over the next 24 hours colleagues joined in, saying a lot of water had flown under the bridge since a decade ago.

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

Sinn Féin still to learn that populism comes at a price

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald meets up with US speaker Nancy Pelosi on her American tour last week.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The Dáil kicked off again yesterday with the usual circus of press conferences, tetchy exchanges in the chamber and protests outside the gate. The first private members motion was tabled by the main opposition party, Sinn Féin, putting forward its own measures to assist with household bills.

Its main suggestion is to boot out this government and put Mary Lou McDonald in.

The regional group is next in line with a private members motion on Thursday. Surprise, surprise, it’s about the security of electricity supply.

The usual pre-Dáil niceties have now been dispensed with. All the political parties held parliamentary away days – or think-ins as they have been dubbed. I’m sure policy and strategy is discussed at some of them but the name of the game is to get your name up in lights before the Oireachtas kicks off.

As night follows day, it will only be a matter of days before the first no-confidence motion is tabled against a Government Minister. Given the huge price hikes in electricity and gas bills, it could be Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan who finds himself in the crosshairs of the opposition parties.

Then there’s the legislative programme. At the start of each new term, the Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers releases a list of about 40 Bills that are earmarked for publication before the session comes to an end. Getting half of them published would represent an exceptionally good performance.

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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