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Time to find a way to move on and begin the healing process



Date Published: 26-Feb-2010

THE Bishop of Galway has made it perfectly clear once again that he has no intention of resigning – and given that neither the Pope nor the hierarchy here has asked him to do so would seem to have effectively brought this drama to a close.

Of course those poor unfortunate victims of clerical sex abuse won’t agree – and it’s easy to understand their point – but prolonging this process any longer only serves to further delay the start of the healing process.

The Murphy Report was a damning indictment of the appalling detachment of the Irish Catholic hierarchy from the greatest atrocity inflicted on the people of this country over many decades.

The fact that four Bishops did tender their resignations in its wake served to underline that, but Bishop Drennan argued that he was not criticised by Judge Murphy; indeed the only references to him vindicated his actions when faced with a clerical abuser.

At least one of the other bishops who has resigned was equally exonerated by the Murphy Report but they chose to fall on their swords anyway, accepting a degree of shared responsibility or a form of guilt by association. But Bishop Drennan has remained steadfastly insistent that he did nothing wrong, nothing that warranted his resignation – and both the Murphy Report and the response of his fellow bishops bear that out.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin did wonderful work in addressing the whole scandal of clerical child sex abuse in the first place and his actions have ensured there will never again be a place for clerical sex abusers to hide.

But he may have been over-zealous in his veiled demands for Bishop Drennan’s head to complete the collection of former auxiliaries – because the Bishop of Galway insisted he did nothing that should force him to step aside.

Bishop Drennan was not asked for his resignation by the Pope in Rome during a meeting with Irish bishops last week – and he believes he has “tacit support” from fellow bishops for his position. His stance was supported by Bishop of Clonfert, Dr John Kirby, who said he admired Bishop Drennan’s strength of character, determination and leadership skills.

Dr Kirby said the church had to make its plans, and it now had a national body for safeguarding children in the Catholic Church.

That is the main positive to come out of this dreadful darkness – that what happened to so many innocent children in the past can never ever happen in the future.

It won’t ease the pain of the victims from the past and the vast majority of them – if not everyone of them – will never agree with the Bishop of Galway when he insists he has a right to stay in office.

The real power base in the Dublin Archdiocese lay with John Charles McQuaid and his successors; the auxiliary bishops were little more than elevated helpers whose duties didn’t extend too far beyond officiating at Confirmations.

All Bishop Drennan could do was deal properly with cases that came his way – and the Murphy Report confirmed he did just that.

There was an expectation at the height of the fall-out from the Murphy Report that all who had held high office within the Dublin Diocese over the period under scrutiny would have to go. It wasn’t down to guilt but more to do with a purge or a catharsis that would allow for a fresh new start.

But the reality is that the new start will be provided by the new rules and safeguards and the insistence of reporting of all activities to the proper state authorities. What the Murphy Report can do is change the future – not the past. Bishop Drennan wasn’t part of the problem then and his departure wouldn’t serve any purpose now.

It’s time to try and find a way to move on; it’s time to start the healing process and not keep re-opening the wounds.


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

Looking sharp as Cœirt approaches



Date Published: 11-Apr-2013

 Images of books and pencils will be placed outside Tí Neachtain on Quay Street this weekend as a reminder to people that the Cúírt International Festival of Literature is on its way,

Every year Cúirt creates displays of writing tools in venues around the city, reflecting the themes of the event. This year, shop windows in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, Dubray’s Books, Busker Brownes and McCambridges will feature. These windows will display headshots of participating Cuirt authors, themes from their books and emblems of authors.

The Tí Neachtain window display will be centred on The Crime Panel, reflecting the strong input from crime writers into this year’s festival. Meanwhile other windows feature literary quotes in vinyl. This year’s Cúirt symbol of a typewriter will also feature prominently.

Cuirt begins on April 23. The official launch will take place in The Hotel Meyrick at 6.15pm on Wednesday, April 24 when President of Ireland Michael D Higgins will do the honours.

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Archive News

Political gatherings in the west prove stark reminder of contrasting fortunes



Date Published: 17-Apr-2013

 Two parties held their party conferences last weekend – and both present pictures of deeply contrasting fortunes.

One is on the rise. Another has fallen and the words equine and deceased and flogging come to mind every time you think about its chances of recovery.

We’ll start with the latter first. The Greens held its convention in Galway over the course of the weekend. Not only has the party’s fortunes diminished but it has also taken on a guise of secrecy. It didn’t really publicise its convention and it consequently hardly caused a ripple in the national media. As Connacht Tribune journalist Ciaran Tierney wittily but cruelly tweeted at the weekend, the convention might have been held in the snug at Tigh Neachtain.

Eighty kilometres up the road in Castlebar, Sinn Fein was holding its Ard Fheis. In contrast, it got saturation coverage. You couldn’t switch on TV or open a newspaper without seeing Mary Lou McDonald’s copious new beehive or a full frontal Gerry Adams’ smile.

In 2007 the shoe was on the other foot. Six years ago the Greens held an annual conference in Galway, attended by hundreds of delegates. The party seemed on an upswing then and there was widespread coverage of the conference, with lots of talks of the Greens going into government.

The polls showed that they could add to their six Dail seats and become a real force in Irish politics. By contrast, whatever about the North, Sinn Fein was struggling to assert itself in the south. It had four TDs in 2007 but the polls suggested it was not capturing the public imagination.

As events unfolded, both parties underperformed in the 2007 general elections. Society seemed settled and content then (it was the height of the Celtic Tiger after all) and smaller parties got squeezed as voters plumped for the two established parties.

Labour flat-lined at 20 seats. The Greens went into the election with six seats and emerged with six seats. Sinn Fein saw its total fall from five seats to four. The Progressive Democrats got wiped completely. And the number of independents also fell from 13 to five.

The story of the subsequent years is well known. The Greens went into government with Fianna Fáil and did okay for about two years until the economic crisis was fully felt. Afterwards it was all downhill. Both parties lashed themselves to the mast of a ship sinking in a hurricane and tried to do what they could to keep it afloat.

The party lost all its seats at the last election. What was half forgotten too was that it had a lousy local election in 2009 and lost 13 of its sixteen council seats. And then to compound its misery, the party failed to get two per cent of the national vote. What that meant was that it did not qualify for any State funding.

So when it began to survey the mess in 2011, all it had were three county councillors and it was broke.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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