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Time for a firm chat with those Russian spymasters



Date Published: {J}

The cachet of the Irish passport is going up all the time. It was interesting enough when it was the Israeli Secret Assassination Service. Now though it’s Russian spies. You don’t get better than Russian spies. That’s sort of the classic of the genre, the crème de la Kremlin. They’ll really be checking me out every time I go to the States now – especially seeing as one of the spies was called Richard Murphy and another was Anna Chapman. There’s gonna be red flags all over the board.

I admit, I always fancied myself as a spy. When I applied though I was disappointed to find that you aren’t allowed to talk with a thick Russian accent, play the balalaika or throw vodka glasses at the fireplace. They want their Russian spies to try not to look Russian at all, which for me really takes all the fun out of it.

But how is it our ones are so popular? A taxi driver I had – it’s always taxi drivers – reckons they must be easy to forge for some reason. And looking over mine, I have to agree. All right, it’s almost ten years old (woah, must get that renewed), but there aren’t a hell of a lot of anti-forging measures. There are watermarks and a number perforated through the pages, but no hologram, no clever ink or anti-copy pattern like even the five euro note has.

(An aside: Do you know about the anti-copy pattern? It’s those yellow stars. Euro notes have it, as does the new colouredy twenty dollar bill and I guess many other currencies around the world. The idea is that if you try to use a computer to scan and print currency it will detect the pattern and refuse it. Since an international agreement, this is in all the latest versions of major graphics software like Photoshop or Paintshop Pro.)

(Hint to forgers: Don’t upgrade your graphics software.)

On the other hand though, there is all that Irish on the passport. That’s got to be good copy protection in itself, as it’s very hard to spell right unless you did well in the Leaving. I scraped a pass, I couldn’t spell seven in eight of those words. They’re all the sort of long ones you’d only know if you’d prepared for an essay on something political. And frankly, the sort of kid who knows that Gnóthaí Eachtracha means Foreign Affairs does not usually turn to a life of crime. Not when they can walk into a good civil service job.

That makes me think. Of course, the problem is solved if you’ve got blanks to work with. I wonder if any have ever . . . slipped out of the Department of Foreign Affairs. That would be great, I’d love to get my hands on a blank passport. I could put on a picture that didn’t make me look like a terrorist for once. Although perhaps that would be suspicious in itself. But you don’t want these to fall into the hands of criminals – or indeed, the hands of supposedly friendly governments.


We need to have stern words with the Russians. They cannot have our passports. They will have to make do with Certificates of Irish Heritage, like everybody else.

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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