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The forgotten heroes who suffered in life and death

Francis Farragher

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Last prayers: Members of the 10th Irish Division at camp in Basingstoke, England, attending a prayer service – and throwing an eye at the camera too – as they prepared to depart for the front line in 1915, many of them never to return.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Growing up as a child of the sixties, there were many references to the Second World War or The Emergency as it was known in Ireland, and it was a topic that could be talked about quite openly and without any sense of restriction.

In the shadows though, lurked many ghosts from the First World War . . . the only problem was, that many of them weren’t in fact ghosts, but were now old men living out their latter years in villages, towns and communities where The Great War was a taboo subject.

Very occasional references would be made in our house to men who still lived around the place and who had survived one horrible episode in the history of the world, as four years of slugging it out in the trenches, led to a wipe-out of about nine million people.

Like all children, during conversations of the grown-ups, we would assiduously eavesdrop on what was being said and occasionally the name of an individual would be mentioned who had soldiered during The Great War. One of those incisive but simple phrases we would hear about someone who had taken part in the campaign was: “that they were never right afterwards.”

Another little phrase trotted out here and there was that such ex-combatants were “shell shocked” and we’d also hear of them “never settling again’ and of “taking to the drink”. There was also a tale of one ex-soldier who eked some kind of primal existence, living under the dry eye of a bridge, his only escape from hardship being the few pints of plain he would consume each evening to help him damply sleep under his stone roof.

As bad and all as the physical and mental scars of the war were on the returning Irish soldiers, they then of course had to face back into an Ireland where the entire political and social landscape had changed in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and the flames of nationalism had again been rekindled. So instead of returning as heroes to Ireland after ‘success’ in the Great War, the Irish soldiers found themselves looked upon as members of the enemy ranks, not to be trusted and often reviled in more hard-line Republican circles. Time slipped by and the old soldiers passed away, quietly and without tribute: in many cases, death an ease to them, in their troubled world of old age, post traumatic stress and semi-ostracism in their own communities.

Given our difficult birth and adolescence as a nation, it has taken us almost 100 years to come to terms with the huge sacrifices made by Irish soldiers and their families during World War 1 and to fittingly acknowledge their bravery and courage as they made their way through blood and bodies in places like The Somme and Gallipoli, waiting for the next bullet to pierce their skulls or chests.

While the biggest blood bath of all during World War 1 was The Somme – where one millions soldiers died in the battle for a net gain of about five miles of territory – the one that’s in the news over the past week is Gallipoli, where 141,000 soldiers lost their lives, 55,000 Allied Forces and 86,000 Turks.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Council’s ‘systematic neglect’ of Irish in Ireland’s bilingual city

Dara Bradley

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An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnail, whose report was critical of Galway City Council.

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Oifig an Coimisinéir Teanga, an office established to safeguard language rights, published its annual report for 2020 recently.

In it, Galway City Council was criticised for erecting a large number of Covid-19 signage last year, written in English only.

The investigation, which was used as an example in the annual report, was not new. It was covered in the Tribune in January, after the Council had its knuckles rapped.

But publication of the report by Rónán Ó Domhnaill highlights once again the general attitude of officialdom towards the Irish language.

Galway was declared a bilingual city by the local authority that didn’t bother to use Irish on its Covid-19 signs. What does that tell us?

Basically, that the cúpla focal are good for restaurant menus and street signs when we’re trying to shake down the Yanks for dollars, but Gaeilge is surplus to requirements when using signs to tell people how to stay safe when there’s a killer virus on the loose.

The Council put its hands up when An Coimisinéir Teanga launched an investigation following a complaint made in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

And after the annual report was published, it even sent its Irish-language officer onto the airwaves of RnaG to declare “tá sorry orm” on behalf of the Council.

The Council argued, as a mitigating factor, that breaches of the Official Languages Act occurred when it was, “operating under unprecedented circumstances in the middle of a global health pandemic which resulted in a significant percentage of our staff operating remotely in crisis-management mode”.

Far from mitigating, it actually just made it worse. If the State won’t communicate with you in your native tongue during a global crisis, when will it respect your rights?

You could argue, ‘why burden the Council with red tape about bilingual signs during Covid?’ But doing it correctly and not breaching the Act, was just as easy. We see bilingual Covid signage all the time now. Why not do it right in the first place?

An Coimisinéir Teanga’s investigation found: “The erection of bilingual signage was simply omitted. This failure was caused by systematic neglect in the administrative practices of the City Council in relation to language legislation.”

Systematic neglect, no less; in other words, they couldn’t be arsed about Irish.

Unless, of course, it’s useful for winning Capital of Culture designations or wooing American tourists. City Hall is all about Gaeilge then.

(Photo: An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnail, whose report was critical of Galway City Council).
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Homeowners living in fear of walls coming tumbling down

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Pyrite and Mica-affected homeowners protest this week at Dublin’s Convention Centre.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Mica and Pyrite are two words that have been lifted from a technical manual or a science textbook to become part of common speech in Ireland in recent years. The presence of both substances in construction materials has had devastating consequences for families from Donegal, Mayo, Limerick, Sligo and other counties. We have seen the TV documentaries and newspaper reports where distraught homeowners show huge cracks in the gables of houses or show a block to the camera that is crumbling in their hands like dust.

Sometimes it looks like somebody has built a giant bungalow-shaped sandcastle that’s going to be washed away by the next spring tide.

We are talking about people’s family homes here. This is where all the life savings – past, present and future – have gone. They (or rather their builders) bought the blocks in good faith, little knowing they were so defective they would endanger their houses, and indeed their own lives.

As Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald remarked in the Dáil this week about these families: “They go to bed at night wondering will their gable end fall down or will the chimney on their neighbour’s house fall down.”

So who is to blame? The companies who manufactured the blocks? The State for not having robust safety standards for the material or manufacture of blocks? The State, again, for not conducting sufficient inspection?

It’s complicated. Like Pyrite, apportioning blame is a tricky business. What is not in doubt is that people who have built family homes cannot live in them anymore, because they are dangerous and falling apart, and it is not their fault. They deserve compensation.

The focus of the Sinn Féin motion this week was for the families to get 100 per cent open-ended compensation. That would mean the State would foot the entire bill to remediate their houses, to rectify the faults, and sometimes to rebuild the whole lot.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Exam points are not the only measure of education success

Dave O'Connell

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

By now, the next batch of around 60,000 students set for third-level education are over a week into the Leaving Cert – the exam that will determine what course they attain a place in for the new academic year.

Their success – added to the performances of their class-mates – will determine their alma mater’s position in what are commonly known as the school league tables.

This is a calculation of how successful a secondary school is, based entirely on the number of its Leaving Certs it gets into third-level education.

In turn – based on this – parents will choose where to send their little bundles of joy when the time comes for them to make the transition from primary to second-level.

And it’s such an arbitrary method of determining the relative success or failure of a centre of education, because it leaves so much out of the equation.

Firstly, it means performance is entirely based on the numbers who go on to third-level, ignoring those who gain apprenticeships or go straight into the workplace.

Admittedly, that’s not a large cohort these days because Careers Guidance seems to begin and end with helping you to choose the right course, not the right career.

But more fundamentally, getting a good student to pass his or her exams and gain a place in college isn’t the ultimate test of a teacher; getting a student who is struggling with reading or writing to a level where they comfortably do both is a far better achievement for any teacher.

Bringing a student who is in danger of failing mathematics, for example, to a position where they pass their exams – but more importantly understand how it works – should be recognised in any measure of performance.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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