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PresidentÕs pre-Christmas visit expresses solidarity with GalwayÕs flooding victims

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

President Mary McAleese last week paid her own personal tribute to the heroes of County Galway’s flood rescue operation when she came to Claregalway, Gort and Ballinasloe in a two day visit to areas stricken by what she described as “the sheer capriciousness and volatility of nature.”

Addresing victims of flooding, mostly from the Claregalway-Carnmore area, in Claregalway Community Centre President McAleese spoke of the overwhelming torrent of nature that changed people’s lives. It created a crisis in farming, business and in particular families who lost their homes. Jobs were lost as a result just overnight, but among all the tragedy came an unseen body of people as a Meitheal of support came from communities.

A Meitheal of care and concern from people to help people they knew and people they didn’t know and that along with huge volume of support from the Local Authorities, Gardai, Army, Civil Defence and so many other voluntary agencies that were all there to offer help and support. President McAleese said that one of the biggest difficulties that she had found was people were too shy to ask for help. The President urged the people affected by the flooding, not to be shy to ask for help.

“There is a continued Meitheal of support of goodness and desire to help, but please ask for help,” the President told the victims.

Afterwards the local community made a presentation to President McAleese, who then went on to speak personally to many of the affected families. Later, in Ballinasloe’s Emerald Ballroom she met many of those who had given so freely and unselfishly during the rescue operation which followed the river Suck bursting its banks, telling her audience that they were “the hand and heart of hope” who had lifted all our spirits.

She also took time to personally meet and talk with many householders and business people who suffered directly as a result of the November floods.

The President was met on her arrived in Ballinasloe by Town Manager Kevin Kelly who reminded her that the response to the unfolding event in the town was a combined effort from many statutory and voluntary organisations which included the Town and County Councils, Gardai, Civil Defence, HSE, OPW, the Red Cross, Armed and Fire Services, and St. Vincent de Paul, all of whom were supported by a significant number of local volunteers who continued to still give freely of their time.

While anyone strolling around the Christmas market in St. Michael’s Square last Sunday afternoon might assume that the town had returned to normal, the reality was that it would be some time before families and business people who had been flooded would be able to return to any degree of normality. It was a theme which President McAleese returned to in her warmly received address, emphasising how important it was for people to know that the spirit of meitheal that had so lifted flood victims, would continue into the weeks ahead as coverage disappeared from newspapers and from our television screens.

“If anyone deserves a good Christmas it is you bunch of people. God knows you have endured so much on the run-up to Christmas. This is not the Christmas you planned, but it was sent in front of you and it was an awful mountain to climb. You have made it climbable by your efforts,” she added.

Accompanied by her husband, Martin, the President looked forward to “seeing the back of 2009 and its many adversities”, when the people who were flooded out would return to their homes and have their homes returned to them.

She said that while the “acute crisis” had now passed, the flood was still a reality which had to be dealt with day in and day out by those that had to be evacuated from their homes and had businesses damaged.

The President went on to talk about the generous, spontaneous and rapid community response which the crisis had provoked as people joined forces to combat a problem that was larger than any one individual or agency could tackle on their own. Those who had worked for the various agencies had “torn up their job descriptions” to work every hour and give of their best because they cared so much about their people and could see the psychological harm and damage unfolding in their lives. She said people really were “heroic” and everybody had a particular story to tell of neighbour helping neighbour.

Her visit to County Galway was an opportunity for her to express her solidarity with those whose homes, farms and businesses were damaged in the flooding and to thank all those involved in the emergency and recovery operations.

“For you this has been and remains a dreadful trial, but the evidence I see here today of community spirit and joint effort will ensure that this too will pass,” she added.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



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



Date Published: 06-Mar-2013

New edge to Galway hurling championship title pursuit

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Archive News

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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



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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