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My ÔtuppenceworthÕ on the Iris Robinson affair

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Not once in recent weeks did I open my laptop but someone had sent me another of those sometimes not-so-funny images on the ‘Iris Robinson Affair’ – most of them in some way based on the theme of the movie The Graduate.

Many of them featured the young Dustin Hoffman in bed with the original ‘Mrs Robinson’ (Anne Bancroft). Indeed, I once went to see a stage performance of that story of a brief tryst between a very young man and an older woman . . . with Jerry Hall doing a more than adequate performance in the role made famous by Bancroft.

There have been other cruder computer images of the unfortunate Robinson affair . . . I say unfortunate because, in this case, a woman is being portrayed on the basis of what we must assume to be the worst moments of her life, and the price has been huge and terrible.

 

This sometimes happens, for instance, in the case of court coverage. Someone with a character which can be pretty much without blemish, or unremarkable, is portrayed solely in newspapers and on radio, on the basis of an incident where they were seen at their absolute worst.

It’s an impossible situation, of course, for people in the media . . . their job is to gather material for publication and they can hardly be expected to put in a few paragraphs pointing out that this was out of character for the person, or that the person had done many good things in their life.

It was one of the reasons why I probably agonised more than most journalists when someone came to me with a plea to keep something out of the newspapers. All the agonising wasn’t worth a damn, of course, but I sometimes must admit that I tried to keep the heading a little more ‘sober’ than it might otherwise have been.

Those are among the reasons why I let the Iris Robinson controversy run for weeks before comment . . . there is a great tragedy in anyone having the worst episode in their life in the public glare. Well, just think of your worst moment . . . and then imagine it published on a wide scale.

To some extent the same can be said of Tiger Woods. What a damned fool he looked in recent weeks in his serial unfaithfulness. As a result, he has become something of an ‘unperson’ in the best traditions of George Orwell’s 1984 . . . meanwhile, the television commentators struggle in the opening of the 2010 season US golf coverage to deal with the fact that we are staring at ‘Hamlet without the prince’.

Based on ‘the worst moments concept’, I can also muster up some sympathy for him. He has lived his life in a media ‘glass bowl’ for years, taken endless adulation . . . and limitless money. It may all have been ‘surface’ and meaningless, but now when he goes out the front door and long before he gets to the relatively controlled environment of a golf tournament, he has to confront the satellite television transmission vans.

The satellite dishes stretch for as far as the eye can see, paparazzi with long lenses hang about in all directions staking-out the neighbourhood, and the concept of a private life, if it ever arose for him, has ceased to exist.

Meanwhile, the advertising pages of the major golf magazines have suddenly become ‘a Tiger free zone’ in a conspiracy of silence imposed by major advertisers withdrawing their support. Among them are finance institutions who have quickly forgotten the embarrassment of the taxpayer having to rescue them. You get a kind of ghostly feeling leafing through the magazines as they fall back on Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, and even the rather colourful John Daly.

As I said, I have a certain sympathy for both Iris Robinson and Tiger Woods – just as I would have for anyone who was now being ‘judged’ on the worst moments of their lives.

Only the saints amongst us are free of moments we would prefer were at least cloaked in secrecy. One of the wisest men I met over many years in journalism was the late Garda Superintendent Gerry Colleran and I always he thought he put very well the lives of ordinary people who – on occasion – were involved in the most extraordinary things.

Gerry Colleran, who died much too young, had huge experience on any number of major investigations. He always said that he could not think of a single person who could take the full glare of an investigation as carried out by a major team dealing with something such as a murder.

He recalled that, when a group of maybe 40 Gardaí and detectives began looking at any killing, the initial most logical place to start the investigation was amongst the family, relations and friends of the person who had been murdered. This was because it was relatively rare that a murderer and victim did not know each other – unless the crime was some kind of mindless drink-fuelled incident in which a murder was the end result of a row or dispute.

He said the most extraordinary things could be thrown up by an investigation – things long hidden and almost forgotten in a family background, extramarital affairs that had never come to light, problems with drink or drugs, and that very often their starting point in questioning had to be that they had no interest in an affair from years previously, their sole interest now was in the murder investigation.

Of course, something that would not have existed in the era in which he was investigating, would be the entire business of text messaging, which has cropped up so much in recent trials.

God, but they read as stupid and puerile in the light of the passage of time. Now maybe a text saying ‘night, sleep well babes, love Jack X’ may sound full of meaning and deep in the light of the moment, but in the cold light of day in the newspapers months later . . . you’d die from embarrassment.

It’s all a long way from ‘how do I love thee? . . . let me count the ways,’ as written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the 1800s.

Better settle for playing strictly at home!

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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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Moment of truth for Galway U21s

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 01-May-2013

 Dara Bradley

FOUR matches, four victories, one after extra-time, a Connacht title, four goals and 56 points scored, four goals and 30 points conceded, a heap of wides from their opponents, sinews strained, buckets of sweat and blood spilled.

It’s been one hell of a roller coaster campaign for the Galway U21 footballers but all that will be forgotten come 7pm on Saturday evening at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick when they cross swords with Cork for the honour of being crowned Cadbury’s All-Ireland champions.

Six weeks ago as Galway set out on their 2013 U21 journey against Sligo in Tuam, the May Bank Holiday weekend final was always the target. They took each game as it came and now it has come down to this – 60 minutes of football to decide who the best U21 team in the land is.

And while there were times along the way when Alan Flynn’s charges looked like they’d fall off the wagon, against Mayo, against Roscommon and again against Kildare, Galway showed resilience and mental strength to time and again bounce back and defy the odds. Often down, never out. It is that perseverance that will stand to Galway in the heat of battle this weekend.

Cork has won an All-Ireland at this grade more times than any other county since the competition’s inception in the 1960s. The most recent of their 11 titles was won in 2009, and they’ve claimed a three-in-a-row of Munster titles with a defeat of Tipperary last month.

Interestingly, five players – Alan Cronin, Jamie Wall, John O’Rourke, Tom Clancy and Damien Cahalene, the son of former inter-county player Niall – that are expected to start this Saturday lined out in each of the last three Munster finals, so they have experience of playing in the pressure cauldrons.

Galway aren’t as experienced. True, a couple of players already have a All-Ireland medal from 2011 – a year Galway beat Cork in the semi-final – but there are a lot of young guns in the panel. Of the squad of 33, about 19 of them are young enough to play U21 next year as well, while eight or nine of the starting 15 will be eligible next year, although you wouldn’t think it given the levelheadedness they’ve displayed throughout the past six weeks.

Galway had plenty to spare over a hapless Sligo outfit in Tuam the first day out, winning by 16 points, which didn’t flatter them, but old rivals Mayo in the following game at the same venue was a different story. After a tense and tight hour of fare, Galway took the spoils after showing immense character to dig it out by two points in a dogfight, 0-9 to 0-7.

Fighting qualities were needed again in the Connacht final in Hyde Park against Roscommon – Galway were minutes from being knocked out of the championship when a heroic comeback, three points in as many minutes from Kilkerrin/Clonberne’s Shane Walsh, rescued extra-time, a period which Galway never looked like losing.

The Tribesmen took their chances when they presented themselves, a trait that also saw them knock-out Kieran McGeeney’s highly rated and much fancied Kildare outfit in a thriller at Tullamore a fortnight ago.

The Lilywhites were wasteful, true, but that’s their problem, and Galway just had too much natural footballing class to take their chances and emerge with a deserved five points, 2-10 to 2-5 victory, despite 19 wides from the vanquished.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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GalwayÕs U-13 and U-16 sides both through to national finals

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 14-May-2013

Mike Rafferty

It proved to be a very successful weekend for Galway Schoolboy soccer as two representative sides qualified for national finals at the end of the month.

It was drama all the way in Eamonn Deacy Park on Saturday afternoon as the U-13 side drew 1-1 with the Midlands League, but came through the dreaded penalty shootout to prevail by 5-4.

 

Meanwhile the U-16 side had to travel to Cork, where they emerged 2-1 winners following a very impressive performance. For the second game in succession, it was the goals of the Connolly brothers that proved crucial to both team’s success.

Andrew lines out with the U-16 side and he notched both their scores in terrific away win, while younger brother Aaron was on target for the U-13 side and also converted the winning spot kick.

Mervue United captured a third consecutive Connacht Youth Cup with an impressive 4-1 win over Castlebar Celtic in Milebush on Saturday.

SFAI U-13 INTER LEAGUE SEMI FINAL

Galway League 1

Midlands League 1

(AET-Galway won 5-4 on pens)

A low scoring contest might indicate few chances, but one has to credit two outstanding defences whose splendid covering and marshalling of the front men was a joy to watch.

Galway’s Oisin McDonagh and Adam Rooney never put a foot wrong in central defence, while full-backs Byron Lydon and Matthew Tierney were equally efficient in defence, and getting forward with regular forays.

Further afield, they matched the visitors in terms of intensity and creativity and in the second half in particular should have pulled away from a Midlands side that won the U-12 national title last year.

The visitors certainly offered the greater attacking threat in the opening half, but found home custodian Mark Greaney in top form. Galway’s best chance fell to Joshua Quinlivan, but he pulled an effort wide of the target.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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