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Priory Hall residents may be lucky ones before the law



Date Published: {J}

You’ll forgive if I express somewhat mixed reactions when I hear and read all of the publicity relating to the predicament in which the residents of Priory Hall find themselves in recent times.

Their lives have been a misery in latter weeks, but they at least have caught the eye of the courts: Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns opens their cases every Friday for special mention . . . and it is a joy to hear him speak from the Bench in the style of trenchant terms which should have been applied to so many of the developments of the boom.

When you catch the eye of a judge, you have some chance of getting action and some sort of resolution date, as distinct from the morass of clinging mire which entails years of correspondence, endless letters referring to ‘yours of above date’, and the feeling of everyone going nowhere.

Perhaps Dickens put it best with his references to the endless twists in a case he called ‘Jarndyce v Jarndyce’ in Bleak House. Eventually, everyone forgot the origins of the case, but it kept grinding onwards taking on a life of its own.

Reason I say the Priory Hall residents have been ‘lucky’ is that there are literally hundreds of developments around the country where people daily encounter open sewers, live electric wires hanging from walls, half-finished houses which are a threat to playing children, and a great silence when it comes to someone – anyone! – expressing a willingness to do anything about the devastation.

Mr Justice Kearns taking Priory Hall ‘under his judicial wing’ reminds me of the early years of my career as a reporter when one of the recurring events on the calendar for any young cub reporter involved covering the Circuit Court.

Presiding at the court was Judge John Durcan, the father of poet Paul Durcan and with the book of poetry Daddy, Daddy dedicated to the father. Incidentally, can I say that I thought the book too intrusive and perhaps even a little harsh in dealing with a man of immense intellect, a man who took his Bench responsibilities perhaps a little too seriously, and who became more reclusive in latter years on the Bench.

Judge Durcan took an occasional break for a few holes of golf in Galway Golf Club after a sitting, but he was a solitary player, turning his car into a copse of trees immediately inside the main gate. On one occasion when I invited him to join me on the first, he gave me that tiny smile, complained of what he called ‘tralach’ in one of his wrists and excused himself, waving me onwards, a solitary figure by choice.

Occasionally, a person would appear in front of Judge Durcan in a civil suit – perhaps something as simple as repossession of any one of a number of the ubiquitous Volkswagens, which were indeed proving to be ‘the people’s car’, though some found it difficult to keep up the payments to lenders, Bowmaker.

The envelopes with the red type on them became a familiar sight in many a home at month’s end but, if you could convince Judge Durcan that you simply did not have the money for a defence lawyer in a repossession case, you had a fearsome supporter on your side.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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