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Punto raises eyebrows

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 01-Jul-2010

Ten years ago the Fiat Punto was the top selling car in Ireland. How the mighty have fallen in recent years! Even the young Garda at a check point in Tuam during the week – he looked like he was about seventeen -raised an eyebrow when he realised it was the new Punto Evo. That was after he had given me the onceover for my licence and insurance. He is not alone as this is the kind of reaction the Punto gets from everyone you meet. Then again, that’s what you should expect from an Italian designed car. They might be gone from the World Cup but they still have an edge in car creation.

 

Certainly the new Punto looks rather dashing in it new skin. It gives the main contenders in this class a good run for it in the prettiness stakes. Inside too, Fiat has tidied-up the Punto to meet modern standards. It is one of the first things you’ll notice, the stylish new dashboard. There are some hard surfaces in there but they are interspersed with some soft-touch panels on the dash and in the doors and some classy control panels, especially in the centre console and around the main display areas.

 

Accommodation too is decent. The seats are sturdy and the space is equal to the best in this class. You get a decent roof height and the specification of the test model, the Punto Evo 5-door 1.2 Dynamic includes Blue&Me Bluetooth, Air Conditioning, Leather steering wheel and a host of other details. All the Audio controls and the Bluetooth controls are placed on the steering wheel, which is a safety detail not always offered by some of the opposition. The test car also came with a Style Package including Adaptive front fog lights, 15” alloy wheels, metallic effect side mouldings and bumper inserts.

 

Safety levels too are a match for the competition with seven airbags and it is one of the few cars in its class to provide a driver knee bag as standard across all trims. As well as the usual ABS, EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and ESP (Electronic Stability Program) systems, there are other useful features such as the Hill Holder system, which helps the driver with hill starts by keeping the car stationary for a few seconds in order to prevent it from rolling backwards, and the adaptive cornering front fog lights that come on automatically on dipped beam according to the steering angle.

 

Driving the Punto Evo shows that Fiat are on the money too. For such a small engine, matched to a five-speed gearbox, the car is sprightly enough with precise handling and decent cornering. I would like the steering to be less vague and with a little more feedback. Around town it is fine but it is too light on the open road and not as sharp as the Fiesta or the Polo, for example.

 

The engine is eager and surprisingly refined for a 1.2. CO2 emissions are 135g/km while petrol usage achieved reached 7.0L/100kms. There is the option of Fiats 1.3 MultiJet that might just be a better option. However, for most discerning drivers this version is more than adequate. Compared to some of the opposition it is actually very good indeed.

 

Fiat continue to sell the older Grande Punto alongside this new car for about €1,000 less. At €15,915 – base price is €14,995 – with all that the test car has added; the new Punto Evo is priced to be really competitive.

Fiat maybe get bad press for reliability and poor resale valuations in the past. However, Fiat demonstrate their own faith in this car and they offer three different warranties. The Punto Evo is backed with a 3 Year Warranty, 3 Year Paintwork Warranty and an 8 Year Anti- Perforation Warranty. Only time will tell if that kind of confidence is justified. However, we are now living in more stringent times, just like ten years ago and perhaps like then, this could be a new era for the Punto Evo.

 

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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Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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