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Now is the Winter of our discount rate

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Date Published: {J}

I’ve been taking long walks in the snow. What else can you do? I recommend you try it too if you can make it out of town somehow. Carefully of course – though once you’re on new snow it seems pretty safe, the treacherous bits are mainly where cars have flattened and polished it into a layer of solid ice.

If it were not for cars to slip on it indeed, there would be little to worry about. I heard a woman on the radio complaining that there was no mention of snow in the Government’s handbook on major disasters. It’s snow! A nuclear accident is a major disaster, not something that looks nice on Christmas cards.

It gives you perspective, walking across a beautiful white blanket under blinding sunlight. The snow comes and cleans the Earth, making all quiet and all one. The sun comes and lifts the snow away. Powers far greater than we oversee this world, mend and renew it. What, really, can the machinations of little human things like banks and politicians do to us?

Kill us of course. Destroy our life savings. Take away our homes, wreck our careers, drive us into penury. But apart from that, there’s really very little they can do.

We have been caught up in a strange piece of economic theatre, unwilling performers for a global audience. The play is a murder mystery called A Killing On the Markets, and our part puts us right at centre stage. We’re the corpse. We’re pretty much expected to lie still here while the bigger players argue about who it was that killed us and how to stop them before they claim another victim.

The bailout plan is pure theatre. Nobody expects this to actually work, the object is to show that they can prevent a country collapsing financially without having to throw much money at it. It’s a statement to the markets: there is no percentage in coming after the euro.

The intention is to give the governments and central banks breathing space while they figure out what the hell to do about the euro, but sooner or later – and probably sooner – the markets will have another go.

Maybe at Portugal next, maybe Spain or even Italy. Maybe us again. The markets are a mechanism for seeking out and exploiting weakness, and while there is still systemic weakness in the common currency they will continue to sniff around the door like a pack of wolves.

Meanwhile we have to live with this completely unworkable, counterproductive deal. It may be theatre as far as the rest of the world in concerned, but it’s going to mean real devastation to the people of Ireland. Is this why we joined a common currency?

The idea of sharing the euro was that it would make our economies grow closer together. A noble objective and one I’ve always supported, but if it means instead that we are to be some kind of sacrificial bulwark for the core countries then it is actually doing quite the opposite.

If the euro cannot survive without sacrificing our lives and our futures, then the euro cannot survive. We must ditch this deal, and the first step is to ditch this Government.

 

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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

Teenage Kicks hard to beat Ð unless youÕre Eden Hazard

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Date Published: 28-Jan-2013

A receiver has been appointed to Greenstar, which operates Kilconnell dump near Ballinasloe with a staff of approximately 15

The company has a workforce of 800 across the country in collecting waste from 80 thousand households and 12 thousand businesses

It is part of the NTR group which last month (july) published a report stating its subsidiary Greenstar will close its nationwide landfills over the next three years unless prices improve

However in a statement today the board of Greenstar said it wanted to express its disappointment at what it called the ‘unexpected’ move of the appointment of a receiver

The company said it was regrettable that its lenders have chosen to take this action – as the company has not missed any scheduled repayments and is in a strong cash position to continue trading for the foreseeable future

Business Analyst Ian Guider says Greenstar feels there was no need for the banks to take this drastic measure

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Archive News

Galway loses a vibrant voice with the passing of Tony Small

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Date Published: 31-Jan-2013

With the passing of Tony Small, Galway has lost a truly vibrant voice. Growing up the son of a tailor in Corrandulla, Tony was reared in a musical house. His brother Jackie was the host of RTÉ 1’s The Long Note, and is also a piper and accordion player of some repute.

Over 30 years ago, Mick Crehan, who runs The Crane Bar, struck up a friendship with Tony Small.

“The first time I met Tony I was playing with an outfit, we were touring around Germany,” he recalls. “Tony was playing with The Wild Geese. They were huge in Germany at that time. There was Tony, Peadar Howley, Norman White, Christy Delaney, Mick Ryan and later Eoin Duignan. They were wild in every way! Tony was a great frontman, a tremendous voice.”

At the time, De Dannan and The Bothy Band were also touring Germany, but as Mick says, ‘The Geese were always top of the bill.’ Tony had a deep affinity with Irish traditional music, but he also put his own spin on it.

“Tony had an extra quality that I find hard to put into words,” says Mick. “He had a vast repertoire of traditional songs and ballads, plus he was writing his own. He had great respect for tradition, but he always added something extra. He bred new life into old songs; he was very innovative.”

“I’d put Tony in the same league as Andy Irvine, who I have tremendous respect for. Andy did things with traditional music that I don’t think have been improved upon. Tony had that type of approach to the songs as well.

Tony Small and Gerry Carthy played the very first gig in The Crane back over 33 years ago. The occasion was re-lived at the beginning of January, when Tony and Gerry played together once more.

“Luckily for Tony, shortly before he died, Gerry was over from the States,” says Mick . “We had a gig here with Gerry, Tony, Jackie, and Sean Tyrell was here, and Johnny Mulhern, and Eugene Lamb, the piper. A fantastic gathering of old buddies.”

Last year, Tony Small released Mandolin Mountain. Recorded in Dingle by Donogh Hennessy from Lunasa, it saw Tony at the peak of his powers.

“It’s definitely his best work,” says Mick. “Nearly all the songs are written by Tony – or re-written. I had the privilege of launching it and writing the notes. There’s a huge variety of stuff on it, there’s philosophical songs, travellers’ songs, rakish songs, very deep songs. I think it gives you a picture of Tony and what he liked, and a very good picture of himself.”

Tony Small took a delight in music that was infectious. In an interview with the Connacht Tribune last November, he reflected on a lifetime’s playing.

“I’m able to sing and I’m able to play a bit,” Tony said. “I’m no virtuoso, but I love doing it. And I love sharing it. I do the best I can. What more can I do?”

Tony Small loved playing music, and had an effect that will endure beyond his lifetime. The Galway music scene has lost a truly gifted player. As Mick Crehan says, “he’ll be really missed.”

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