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RTEÕs big fish find life more palatable in smaller pond

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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

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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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Olive helps people deal with cancer diagnosis

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

None of us wants to get cancer and nor do we want to see anybody we love suffer from it either. However, the fact is that one in every three of us will be diagnosed with the illness at some time in our lives. About 30,000 people a year get cancer in Ireland, but according to Olive Gallagher from the Irish Cancer Society, mostly it’s not serious and can be treated.

For anyone who has to deal with cancer, it’d be a blessing to have Olive on your side. She is the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Nurse at UHG, who supports and advises people who have been diagnosed with the illness and also supports their families.

It’s a role the former Oncology Sister sees as hugely important in patients’ lives.

The Daffodil Centre opened in 2009 at University Hospital Galway. The first in the Ireland, it is now one of seven countrywide. Olive has been at UHG Centre for the past 15 months. Before that she worked in oncology wards in St Luke’s in Dublin and in the Galway Clinic.

Olive describes the Daffodil Nurse’s role as bringing information to people at the point of diagnosis and treatment.

“It’s here and it’s free and you don’t need an appointment,” she says from her tiny office on the ground floor of the hospital.

“I don’t know what’s going to come in the door any day. It could be the patient, or it could be brothers, sisters, a parent or a child, looking for practical or emotional support.”

Her role is to help them, whatever is required.

“It’s very practical information sometimes, such as ‘what can I expect from chemo?’ because having knowledge takes a lot of the fear out of it. And it’s also saying to people ‘you are not alone’. When a person goes into a [cancer] clinic and gets information from a doctor or nurse there is only so much you can retain. For instance, a woman with a diagnosis is trying to protect her husband and her kids, so this is somewhere she can come to and acknowledge her fears and get psychological support.

“And if we don’t know the answer to something someone asks us, we’ll find out.”

People are sent to her by nurses or doctors and also hear about the service via word of mouth.

Olive doesn’t have access to patients’ case notes or have any information about them, except what a person chooses to tell her. She’s just there to help.

“When people need help to navigate their way through the system, it’s there. Sometimes it’s about helping them to verbalise questions for the doctor – to give them the language to discuss their illness, or to break down the language for them.”

She also helps with information on diet and complementary therapies, and says that “coming here is about people having a bit of control. Decisions are being made for them in the system and this is about giving them back a bit of power”.

Basically, it’s about patients having somebody there for them and also for family members who might want a coffee and a chat.

“Not to feel on your own is what a lot of it is about. If there is good news, great. But we are also there for the bad news and to support people. For me oncology nursing was always about the person and what you could do to make their journey easier. Sometimes it’s about holding a hand or sitting with somebody.

“We are there when people need us. And everybody’s needs are different. Some people want loads of information about what’s happening to their bodies and others want the bare minimum. Neither is right nor wrong.”

Some people can be angry and just want to vent, which is OK too.

“It’s about being where they are in their journey, giving them a safe place, where they can let stuff out in a confidential environment.”

 

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

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Jazz, folk and rock-inspired Syd Arthur set to hit the road

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Combining jazz, folk and rock influences, Syd Arthur play Róisín Dubh on Thursday, February 14. The Canterbury-based band are Liam Magill (vocals/guitar), Raven Bush (violin), Fred Rother (drums) and Joel Magill (bass). As he prepares to hit the road with the band, Joel recalls how they met.

“Me and Liam are brothers, so obviously we’ve known each other for a while,” he laughs. “We met Fred, our drummer, at school and started jamming together. Then we met Raven a bit later on, when I was 19 or 20. It went from there, basically.”

Some parents may be wary about their children going the rock ‘n’ route, but Joel and his friends met no such obstacles.

“We were always interested in it, and encouraged at school and by family,” he says. “Later on, the discovery of the Canterbury sound had a big influence on us.”

The ‘Canterbury sound’ refers to a scene that emerged in the late Sixties and early Seventies, spearheaded by groups with a taste for avant-garde and progressive rock music.

 

“I would always think of The Soft Machine and Caravan, and Hatfield and the North,” says Joel. “They’d be the big ones for us.”

In a previous incarnation, Joel and his bandmates went under the moniker of Grumpy Jumper. Why did they change their name?

“That was a long time ago, before Raven was in the band,” Joel explains. We were just playing locally and we made a CD under that name. When Raven joined, we felt like it was a new thing, so time to move on.”

Their new name comes from Siddhartha, a Buddhism-inspired novel written by Hermann Hesse.

“We all discovered that book around the same time,” says Joel. “It went round the whole band at the time we were trying to come up with a new name. We took a little bit of a play on it, made it a bit English. We used to pronounce the name of the book ‘Syd Arthur’.”

Last year, Syd Arthur released their debut album On And On, which was recorded in their own studio in Canterbury. Having their own space allowed the quartet to become familiar with recording, producing and mixing their music.

“Three or four years ago we got access to this space from Raven’s family,” says Joel. “It was an old dilapidated building that was on their property. We were often underwhelmed by going into the studio, spending a lot of money and generally not coming out with anything as good as one would hope.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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