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Sometimes being a patient truly is a virtue



Date Published: {J}

Every time RTÉ in particular has a story about health – be it patients on trolleys, the cost of treatment, availability of surgery or whatever – they inevitably turn for comment to an admittedly eloquent man called Stephen McMahon, head of the Irish Patients Association.

And that always gets me wondering about an organisation called the Irish Patients Association.

For example, how do you join; how ill would you have to have been to qualify? If you were once a patient, are you a patient forever? Would you have to have spent a night in a hospital to make the grade as a patient or would a sprained ankle get you in?

Where do they meet – and if you’re sick and unable to turn up for the meeting, is that seen as a massively positive thing in the circumstances?

How much does it cost to join? And can you too stand for election to the Association’s executive so that you too can talk to RTÉ about the crisis in our health sector?

Can you be thrown out because you haven’t visited your doctor in the last twelve months? Can you be too healthy to qualify as a patient?

Mostly I wonder what sort of membership would the Irish Patients Association have and how representative would it be of people who’ve been to hospital – perhaps there are thousands of members but I’ve never met one.

Hospital is enough of a trauma without joining some sort of past-pupils union afterwards so that you will forever more be intrinsically linking to those dark days when you had your hip replaced or a stent insertéd to regularise your heartbeat.

Most of us wouldn’t even visit patients in hospital only we have to, such is our overwhelming desire to steer clear of the place – and that’s no reflection on the staff who are on hand to do Trojan work every time we need them.

So it is indeed comforting to know that there exists in our midst a man who is prepared to represent patients forever, providing expert analysis and reaction for RTÉ whenever the need arises.

And it’s great that someone is so motivated that he wants to stand up for patients every time the need arises; part of the problem there, though, is that most patients find they have to stand up for themselves as well because half of our hospitals have closed off the spare beds that would facilitate a lie-down.

We have representative bodies for doctors, nurses and other hospital staff – so why not an association for those who are on the receiving end of their skills too? Surely a sponsorship by a major health insurance company is only a small step away.

But it’s a thankless job too because just when you think you’re getting to grips with the problem, along comes another patient and the numbers just grow again. Worse of all are the impatient patients who refuse to take no for an answer.

For more, read 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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