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Some of the things that make us uniquely Irish

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Date Published: 02-Jan-2013

Sometimes you have to go away to truly understand what it means to be Irish – perhaps it’s the longing for home that draws the ex-pat to Irish pubs or centres that, in all fairness, they wouldn’t cross the road to visit if they were still at home.

They will also go online to order boxes of Tayto cheese and onion crisps, when they’d probably be eating Walker’s if they hadn’t left.

And they’ll get up at five in the morning if they’re in the US or stay up until the early hours if they’re in Australia to see the hurling on the telly, when they mightn’t actually know how to find their way to Croke Park with a map if they were still at home.

But that shouldn’t be knocked because sometimes you have to lose something to know what you’re missing – but it got the mind thinking about the things that define us.

We’re not talking about red hair or John Hinde postcards or about economic failure or drinking pints of Guinness – it’s the slight more subtle characteristics or guilty pleasures that bring a warm glow no matter how far you are from home.

So in no particular order, here’s the drinking pints after Mass on a Sunday; eating crisp sandwiches; watching the Late Late Show, stopping in your tracks for the Angelus on the telly; and eating breakfast rolls where what normally goes on a big plate can mysteriously be crammed into a small baguette.

We’re the only nationality in the world that sees brown envelopes as a symbol of corruption – everywhere else they’re a symbol of bills.

We’ve made a national past-time from giving out about the rain for eleven months of the year – and about the sunshine are three days of it in July.

Nobody does sunburn like the Irish – back of the neck, lower arms – for that scarlet red/milky white combination that looks like an Arsenal shirt reversed in the wash.

There are sports fans who insist on bringing flasks of tea and loaves of ham sandwiches with them on the train or to Croke Park, despite the reality that both already boast enough food to feed an army.

We’re the only people on God’s earth, happy eating cold pig’s crubeens while playing 25 in a community centre. And an Irish fry is not a fry without black and white pudding.

We enjoy funerals more than weddings; because we don’t have to bring a present, we can sit where we like and with who we want to, and we have no idea if it will last an hour or a week.

We spent ten years proudly boasting about how much our homes were theoretically worth – and now we just want to make them as close to worthless as possible to avoid paying the property tax.

We love the English Premiership but support anyone at all who plays against the English team.

We buy English newspapers, watch English television, ape English music and culture – and cry into our pints late at night about 800 years of English oppression.

We reject every Referendum once for pure pig-iron and then we ratify it quietly the second time around.

We buy bottles of water, despite the fact that we’re drowning in a sea of it.

Eternal pessimists that we are, we clap when our plane lands on the runway – as though the issue was clouded in some doubt – and, as we exit, we always thank the bus driver for giving us a lift in return for nothing more than our fare.

With the obvious exception of Roy Keane, we’ve mastered the old adage that, in sport, it’s not winning that’s important, it’s the taking part.

Thus we celebrate our award for being the best fans in Europe for jumping into every fountain we set eyes on where we wrap ourselves in wet tricolours emblazoned with the name of our local pub, as we sing that old Irish anthem Olé Olé Olé until we’re hoarse.

And after all that, we will turn out in our thousands and hold giant homecomings for teams that have no trophy.

We’d have a festival – or, come to think of it, a state-funded inquiry – at the drop of a hat, for anything you can think of.

On the festival front, we annually capture and crown a goat as the King at Puck Fair, we turn a fifth generation Irish/American into the Rose of Tralee, and we mark the feast day of our patron saint by trying to drown ourselves in a sea of green beer.

And then at the end of it all, no matter how big the crisis, how awful the trauma, how impossible the dream – we have the cure-all to solve every problem.

Because there is nothing that can’t be made more palatable with just a nice cup of tea.

For more from Dave O’Connell, see 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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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

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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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