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Writer Ndrek finds new voice in language he learned 10 years ago



Date Published: {J}

Albanian born journalist Ndrek Gjini didn’t speak a word of English when he moved to Ireland 10 years ago, to escape political repression in his own country.

A decade on, his achievements are formidable. Not only does he speak fluent English, but Ndrek’s first collection of poetry in his new language was published recently, with the support of NUIG professor Adrian Frazier, who described him as “a true poet”.

Ndrek has an unusual way of looking at the world and his poetry communicates his experiences – such as planning to cook a fish or visiting his homeland – in language that grabs the reader.

Yet, for the first six months in Ireland with his wife and two small children Ndrek was “totally depressed” because of his inability to communicate.

“I didn’t know how to say yes or no. I didn’t know how to ask where the toilet was. It was that basic.”

But he was determined to fit in and, starting with dictionaries and CDs, he began to get to grips with English.

Two years after arriving in Ireland, he enrolled in a journalism course in GMIT’s Castlebar campus and got “good results, despite my poor English”.

After receiving a certificate for that course, Ndrek moved to Galway, to study at GMIT in the city where he got a BA and a BA honours in Heritage Studies.

Next he did an MA in Writing at NUI Galway. Along the way, he wrote a regular column on his experiences for the Connaught Telegraph, as well as other, more general, articles.

If somebody whose native language was English had achieved so much academic success in such a short time, it would be impressive. For someone like Ndrek, it’s awesome and illustrates his fierce determination, as well as intelligence.

Academic life was not new to him. In the 1980s he graduated from university in Albania with a BA in Albanian Language and Literature, followed by a diploma. He taught for several years, before becoming a full-time journalist, who also published poems and books.

Albania was, until recently, one of the poorest countries in Europe, It suffered enormously under a Russian influenced communist regime from 1944 to 1990. After an uprising in 1990, elections in 1992 finally led to the communists being routed. But unrest continued and a communist inspired government regained office in the late 1990s.

These socialists, “were nostalgic for the old regime and still found it hard to accept free speech”, says Ndrek.

“There was too much hate and people had taken political sides in the struggle to move away from communism to democracy.”

These days, Albania’s communist sympathisers “have to accept that the world has changed”, but 10 years ago they “could behave violently against you”.

Ndrek’s journalism had made him unpopular and eventually the political pressure forced him and his family to leave Albania.

“It was like Ireland from 1921 to 1924 . . . nearly the same situation with brother fighting brother,” he explains, showing an impressive grasp of Irish history.

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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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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