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The engineers at Fukushima may be dying for us as well



Date Published: {J}

The news agenda rumbled onwards so noticeably at the weekend – the 24-hour news channels which had been putting out round-the-clock coverage of the awful tragedy of Japan, changed their focus to the war action in Libya.

Suddenly, we were getting those stock images once more of apparently surgical strikes by cruise missiles, the ‘Star Wars’ style images of the world’s most sophisticated aircraft roaring away from the decks of carriers. Why, they even broke out the stock footage of submarines launching those extraordinary missiles which seem to wobble around in the water briefly before coming flaming out of the waves.

On Sunday afternoon as Sky News went into ‘war mode’ I thought it can’t be long before we begin to see reporters ‘embedded’ with the UK forces, except that this time, it is unlikely we will see what they call ‘boots on the ground’. Those terms which reporters seem to love like ‘fire and forget missiles’ came into use all over the place.

However, the lessons of Afghanistan may have been learned. In other words, it’s grand to play ‘Star Wars’ on warships hundreds of miles away from the target, or in planes that fire their missiles from another country, but don’t get dragged into a ground war with the likes of Ghadaffi, or indeed The Taliban.

The remarkable change in the news agenda in a matter of hours was a disturbing reminder that the world does tend to move on from even the most dreadful events. Japan and its tragedy became item number two. I thought, how many now remember the shock and awe of watching the scenes from Haiti in the wake of its enormous earthquake?

In the case of Haiti, the sheer grinding poverty of the country meant that the wreckage we were seeing drifting by in extraordinary rivers was largely composed of tin roofs and rubbish from shanty towns . . . in Japan, it’s been made up of waves of cars, lorries, vans, fridges, houses, apartment blocks.

But, for this writer, the images from Japan that will survive in the mind’s eye when many others will have faded, will be those from the past week of the snow-covered wreckage of one of the most sophisticated and wealthiest countries in the world as it struggled to cope with a huge natural disaster in which it appears impossible to even count its dead.

The other thing from which it is hard to escape is the fact that the engineers are probably enduring fatal doses of radiation for us in that power station as well . . . for, even as they take on those massive doses of radiation in attempting to save the reactors from exploding and meltdown, they are saving the rest of the world as well.


When it comes to nuclear accidents in Japan, it isn’t just those living within a few hundred kilometres who are in danger. Many will remember that when Chernobyl happened all those years ago, there were distinctive traces of its nuclear signature picked up as far away from the epicentre of crisis as here in the west of Ireland. Yes, the mountains of Connemara also registered the distinctive signature of Chernobyl.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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