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Team managers are not a ÔcancerÕ on the GAA



Date Published: {J}

There are few more infuriating consequences of modern technology than the automated phone service, when you ring a number looking to talk to someone and you find yourself having to go through more numbers than a Minister for Finance before you finally give up anyway in utter exasperation.

But the VHI, God bless them, have taken this automated phone service notion to a whole new level – because now they use a robot to ring you.

So your phone rings and you pick it up and say hello, to be greeted seconds later by the female automaton who moonlights as the monotone voice on the sat nav, utterly devoid of any emotion or excitement as she launches into her sales pitch.

“This is an automated call from VHI Healthcare,” she drones.

“We have a wide range of something or other – would you like to be put through to…..” presumably, a human being to discuss your health care options.

Having recovered from the skipped heartbeat of infuriation that the VHI should ring me, a human customer, and not had the manners to put a human being on the end to make the call, I hung up before I had a stroke and had to take my chances with MRSA and the spring version of the winter vomiting bug in my local friendly, underperforming hospital.

Bu had I stayed on the line to talk to the VHI’s R2-D2, I probably could have enjoyed several minutes of one-sided interaction with a computer while the health insurance heads worked out how best to ensure consultants’ earnings are maximised from their private practices.

“Press one to skip the trolleys in A&E,” my inanimate friend might have said; “press two if you want to have your hips replaced before your legs fall off; press three for cataract surgery if you can still see three on the phone.”

“Press the hash key if you’d like to come in for a routine examination and pretend that you stayed overnight so that your consultant can lease out your bed to four different patients for four different overnight procedures all on the same date.

“You can talk to our remaining member of staff at any stage during this process by pressing in the correct order the numerical sequence that explains Archimedes’ quadrature of the parabola – and be prepared to wait, because we’ve cut back on real staff so that consultants can still make ends meet on those quarter of a million euro a year contracts.”

The sad side-effect of computerisation and technology is that you no longer have to talk to anyone to get your business done – and the VHI has taken it on to a higher level by not only offering an automated reception when you ring, but also a computerised cold-caller when you might otherwise be busy at work.

You can now bank online, pay your road tax, bin charges and television licence by computer, book holidays and hotel stays without every even darkening the door of a human being; you can travel by train, plane or automobile by booking on the internet, and you can do your shopping at your local supermarket without leaving the comfort of the couch.

Sometimes this is a good thing – you might not want to talk to some bored or frustrated bank teller or insurance salesperson – but most of the time, a little human interaction is no bad thing.

Sometimes a country comes up with a very clever idea – like the Danes who have come up with a very clever way of using your mobile phone when you’re stuck for a stamp.

From April 1, letter-writing Danes will be able to send a text message to pay the postage on a letter when the new Mobile Postage Service does away with stamps for standard sized letters.

Instead, people will send a text to the post office and get back a code they write on the envelope.

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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