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Science Festival defies odds

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Nov-2009

THE Galway Science Festival Exhibition defied all the odds on Sunday – when thousands of budding young scientists and engineers crowded into the event, which went ahead despite atrocious weather and the fact that many of the roads leading to Galway were badly flooded.

Right through the day, the 30 interactive stands in Leisureland, and the special shows and demonstrations on science, engineering and maths, in the Galway Bay Hotel, attracted back the families who have been regulars for years, and many thousands for whom the festival exhibition was a first time treat.

Among the stands were special demonstrations and giveaways by major sponsors such as Medtronic and Boston Scientific, but also involved were major educational institutions such as NUI, Galway and GMIT.

Said Exhibition Organiser Simon Lenihan: “Because of the commitment of time in building the stands, and the commitment from people like Boston Scientific and Medtronic, and other sponsors, we decided to go ahead. It was never as busy … I’m delighted to say that we had thousands of visitors right through the day, despite awful weather outside. The youngsters just insisted on being there.”

One casualty of the weather was the Irish Robotics Championship, which was due to be held in the Galway Bay Hotel on Saturday, but, because teams from centres such as Wexford, Drogheda, Dunleen, Roscommon could not travel safely, or be sure of arriving, the event, sponsored by SAP, was put back to January.

Speaking at the opening of the Exhibition, Patron Noel Treacy TD said that such events were crucial to the development of the smart economy’ – we were going to take the best of enterprise and innovation and research and match them together.

He said the policy … “aims to promote Ireland as a leading knowledge-based economy by harnessing the best elements of the enterprise economy and the innovation ‘ideas’ economy.” He said this would provide protection against the outsourcing which had proved such a drain on jobs in latter years.

“Ireland will become a hub of innovation … this will result in the creation of high end, high paid jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

Further expansion in the research and development sector was a theme taken up by both Deputy Treacy and Mayor of Galway Councillor Declan McDonnell – both pointed to 50 jobs and $11million investment announced recently by Hewlett Packard, and on the same day the announcement by an online retailer of 50 jobs.

Mayor McDonnell pointed to the vital need for scientists and engineers to help build our new industries – and adverted to the fact that the IDA had a site at Oranmore which was ready for development in the Bio-Pharmaceutical area, if an investor could be found.

One of the vital needs for this sort of development, he said, was a generation of young people with a science and engineering background.

Deputy Treacy and Caroline Healy (Medtronic) both referred to the good news that numbers taking science and engineering courses were growing nationally, and said events like the Galway Science and Technology Festival, which made science fun, were crucial to development in skills numbers.

Mr. Treacy pointed to the fact that the life sciences sector in Ireland now employed 52,000 people in over 350 enterprises and with a turnover of $44billion, which accounted for almost 30 per cent of our total exports.

He said the Science and Technology Festival had played its part in science take-up. “There appears to be growing recognition among young people of the importance of sciences. Figures recently released by the Higher Education Authority, show a 25 per cent jump in acceptance of science and computing courses at third level, in the past year. Science is at its highest level of favour with students in a decade. This is due in no small part to events such as this Festival,” he added

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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Archive News

Ruby ready to rock again and Bob is worth a big flutter in Gold Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 06-Mar-2013

New edge to Galway hurling championship title pursuit

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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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