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RTEÕs big fish find life more palatable in smaller pond



Date Published: {J}

They were the Crockett and Tubbs of the RTE newsroom, the Starksy and Hutch of banking exposés – and then Charlie Bird and George Lee flew the Donnybrook nest for bigger and better things.

We were bereft, robbed of the Batman and Robin who gallantly saved this Gotham City from the bad boys of the banking world.

One set sail across the Atlantic to a lonely apartment and a TV dinner for one; the other had looked his children in the eye and told them that he had to save the western world so that they’d have an Ireland to be proud of when they grew up.

But now, in what seems like the blink of an eye since they flew the coop, both of them are coming home; Charlie on foot of a very public confession of loneliness and isolation and George after he realised that you cannot change the world in nine months after all.

It only seems a wet week ago that the duo were on radio for ‘Miriam Meets….’ with Miriam O’Callaghan of a Sunday morning – a programme where two guests united by ‘love, life or family ties’ come on talk about their relationship.

Once can only presume that life was their shared bond – but both of them seemed happy to have moved on with both their work and their lives, reflecting almost wistfully on the National Irish Bank scandal and other such affairs.

How little we knew as we listened – because a short few weeks later, both are doing their impression of homing pigeons (ironic given that one is a Bird by birth) and heading back to the place they know best.

But in doing so, they have presented RTE management with a job of work to do before restoring their campaigning correspondents to the frontline.

George Lee clearly cannot slot back into his role as an economic analyst because anything he says will be tainted by his raison d’etre for entering politics in the first place – to help get the current Coalition out of Government.

No doubt one of the daily or Sunday papers will come bearing a large and open cheque book to secure his services if he decides against taking up his option on re-employment in the corridors of RTE.

Charlie, on the other hand, looks likely to get his old chair as Chief News Correspondent back…unless he decides to stand for George’s old seat in Dublin South.

Perhaps a straight switch would work best for both; Fine Gael would have another bird on the frontbench and George ‘Washington’ Lee has a nice ring to it as well.

The biggest problem for the dynamic duo was that they enjoyed being big fish in a small pond more than they realised.

George’s pronouncements on the economy carried a lot more weight as a reporter than they do coming from an opposition backbencher. As Willie O’Dea opined, George was like a bidet – lovely to have one but untimately leaving you puzzled as to quite what to do with it.

And back home, Charlie liked when they chanted his name during protest marches. He was the man with the mobile that was never switched off, the man who had a divine right to shout up the first question at every visiting dignitary.

But in the US – if his documentary series was correct – he had been forced to leap on passing strangers asking them for a kiss in order to get  attention.

George and Charlie were treated with a degree of reverence and respect within the corridors of RTE that could never be replicated in the outside world.

Without that almost infallible standing, they turned out to have the same feet of clay as the rest of us – and they didn’t like it.

Just how much damage their volte face has inflicted remains to be seen; but clearly, Enda Kenny has taken a body-blow at a time when the polls are beginning to just edge back a fraction towards Fianna Fail anyway.

And RTE is left with egg on its face after Charlie found out that he’s really a home-bird after all.

For more, read page 15 of this week’s Connacht 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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