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NAMA will kill Irish economy for years to come

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Was ‘treason’ too strong a word? No. When this government agreed to take on the liabilities of Anglo-Irish Bank, converting the risks of financial speculators into a personal liability for every citizen, then yes they did betray the people of Ireland. Not with malice aforethought, but with too little regard for the consequences on ordinary people, born of too high a regard for the interests of a wealthy minority.

But that minority was taking a punt to turn a profit. It may have suited the government to pretend that demand for property was infinite, but the investors still knew it was a game. You get in, grab what you can, you hope to get out before the bubble bursts.

Anglo was obviously overexposed to property, so anyone hanging in there at the end was well aware that they were taking a huge risk. And so they lost – or at least they should have. But investors in Anglo were not taking a gamble on the property market as such. In effect they were betting on the government being too weak and too dependent on the property sector to allow them to lose. So really they won. Not on the open market, but in a game of bluff against the state. For our money.

And now the nation is up to its epiglottis in debt. Those who got carried away in the ‘Tiger’ years and joined in the national madness, who borrowed money to buy a house for twice what it was worth so they could sell it for three times, they will have to pay that back now. Sorry, but proper order. Those of us who either couldn’t afford or knew better than to get into overpriced property . . . Well we’re going to have to pay it back too. Lessons this government teaches us: No sensible decisions goes unpunished.

How did it come to this? It’s really pretty simple. People invested in the Irish property market because it was a magic money machine. Then the money just vanished overnight.

Oh dear, where did it go? It seems it was never there in the first place, because buildings simply aren’t worth that much in reality. Who knew? NAMA’s estimate is that about half of the total money borrowed is now not going to given back, and frankly I think that’s wildly optimistic. We all now have to pay up to five thousand a year each, so even more people are going to be defaulting on their mortgages and other debts. Do you have five thousand a year you weren’t using?

It’s insane, and it’s going to kill the economy stone dead for decades. All because this government pledged that we – the ordinary citizens, the workers, the donators to and recipients of welfare, health services and pensions – would keep the empty promises of speculators. In no uncertain terms, we owe that money now because of the stupid prices that were paid for property in this country.

Remember a few years ago, when you saw some awful little building on sale for several million, and you laughed and said "Who’s going to pay that kind of money?" Turns out, the answer was you will.

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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Archive News

Ruby ready to rock again and Bob is worth a big flutter in Gold Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 06-Mar-2013

New edge to Galway hurling championship title pursuit

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A battle of talent and the ability to pull in public votes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 11-Mar-2013

Here is a question. And there is no holiday or grand prize for getting the answer. But can anyone name the people who have won The Voice of Ireland and what has become of them?

Over across the water in the UK they have The X Factor and while I hate the concept of it, it has produced a few stars even though they don’t last long in the whole scheme of things.

But The Voice of Ireland seems to generate false excitement with the winner ending up become more anonymous than they already were. And it is costing families a fortune in the process.

While the programme is a ratings winner, strangely, it has resulted in those getting through to the final stages investing huge amounts of money in the hope that they will receive enough votes to get through to the next stages.

So, suddenly, it is not about the voice or the talent involved, it is all about votes and who the participants can convince to pledge their support for them. So it is obvious that talent goes out the window.

It means that someone with half a talent could realistically win the whole thing if they generated enough support behind them. From now on, the judges will be taken out of the equation and it will be left to the public to generate income for some phone operator.

Those who get through to the live performances have to engage in a massive publicity campaign in an effort to win votes which makes this whole effort a pure sham. It is no longer about their ability and just an effort to win appeal.

While the initial process does involve some vetting of the acts, now it becomes a general election type exercise in which the most popular will win the competition and the judges will have no say whatsoever.

It is a bit like the recent Eurosong in which the judging panel across the country voted for their favourite song, which incidentally was the best of a very bad lot, but then this was overturned by the public who chose a relatively crap song to represent us.

But again, this was all down to convincing the public about who to vote for rather than having any bearing on the quality on offer. There are times that genuine talent becomes overlooked because of the need to extract money from the voting public.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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