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Corrib Gas row the subject of show in Tulca Festival of Art



Date Published: {J}

Putting a human face on people who have been dragged through the media was among the reasons why one of Ireland’s top young artists, Seamus Nolan decided to tackle the controversy surrounding the Corrib Gas project in Mayo.

His video, Oral Hearing re-enacts the final session of the Bord Pleanála oral hearings about the laying of controversial high pressure pipes in North Mayo to bring gas onshore from the Corrib Gas Field. This work is being shown as part of this year’s Tulca Festival of Visual Arts, which is currently running in the city.

In Oral Hearing, Seamus presents the words and opinions of local people including teachers, farmers and retired citizens who opposed the Corrib Gas project, as planned by oil and gas company, Shell.

These people based their arguments on potential health risks as well as for ideological reasons. For the video, actor Seamus Moran (ex Fair City) re-enacts the role of An Bord Pleanála Inspector Martin Nolan, and Donal O Kelly plays the part of Shell Lawyer Mr Esmond Keane.

Oral Hearing covers the final two days of the 2009 hearing when objectors made final submissions that summed up their concerns about the pipeline, explains Kilkenny-born Seamus, who graduated from the National College of Art and Design with a first class honours degree in sculpture in 2004.

He was deeply impressed by “the information and expertise these people had gathered about their environment and own place and their knowledge of the judicial and democratic process”. But they were sidelined and Oral Hearing, which was produced by Dublin’s Project Arts Centre, explores how the local had become marginal.

“No matter how much knowledge or information people had gathered, it was secondary to a homogeneous globalised model of how things work,” Seamus feels.

“These people were making arguments against professional people, such as Shell engineers, based on local knowledge. The arguments being put forward were precise and accurate and very revealing in what’s spoken about and the process and format.”

His approach is not necessarily about having sympathy for the opponents of the pipeline, he says – it’s about exploring what is happening.

“It’s important as an artist to try and figure out what’s going on around you and how your own concerns can have an effect on your environment. . . . to challenge the limits that you have.”

Ultimately, for him the oral hearings were “an interesting space where culture was being discussed and our attitudes and the idea of civil rights”. And the whole process raised a lot of issues.

“There are very legitimate arguments on both sides. The State wants what it calls ‘a gateway to sustainability’ and that’s a good idea, but how it’s being brought into place and the basis it’s agreed on, is not good.

“The State is facilitating private interest ahead of public interest but it’s giving it the name of public interest.”

For his reconstruction of the oral planning hearing into the Corrib pipeline, he used the local community centre where 60 people came in. All of them listened through the re-enactment and some took part in the process.

Seamus, who is currently Artist in Residence with the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and who has been chosen to represent Ireland at the 2011 Europalia Arts Festival in Brussels, doesn’t always use film as a medium for his work.

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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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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