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Archive News

Keeping a perspective in the midst of emotive debate



Date Published: {J}

The past few weeks have given journalists a little taste of just what life was like for decent priests during the child abuse scandals.

That’s not meant to be funny or insulting to victims of clerical child abuse – it is simply an observation that journalists, like the clergy before them, are in the spotlight over low standards when the reality is that only a handful – in real terms – have transgressed.

RTÉ has been in the spotlight on this side of the water while the maverick reporters and their private investigators from the News of the World have been rightly getting it in the neck on the other side of the Irish Sea.

They are vastly different issues of course – one is a mistake, an appalling error of judgement but hardly indicative of sham standards throughout the entire organisation; the other was a way of life.


But together they have combined to shine a light on journalism, journalists, ethics, standards and above all just how far some people will go in pursuit of the ‘story’.

In the meantime, the vast majority of journalists who have never tapped a phone, hired a private investigator or encountered a solicitor on foot of anything other than a genuine mistake, find themselves under a sort of scrutiny that they never saw coming.

It’s not that we are above examination – God knows, if we can dish it out, we can learn to take it – but it’s wrong that any profession should be held to account for the sins or omissions of the few.

The analogy with priests is no accident; in relative terms, a few priests abused children. It was the most heinous crime they could have committed and those involved in either the abuse or the cover-up should spent the rest of their days behind bars.

But the vast majority of priests would no more think of abusing a child than they would of robbing a bank – and yet many of them will admit they were afraid to wear their Roman collar out in public for fear of vilification.

Journalists don’t have a uniform – unless crumpled jackets and jeans constitutes one – but we’ve been asked more questions about our profession recently than normal . . . and not in the usual ‘it must be a nice job to have’ kind of way.

In commenting on the Prime Time Investigates programme on Fr Kevin Reynolds, I have to declare a couple of interests; I’ve worked on many occasions for RTÉ and my wife works full-time for the station. I also have many friends there and, while I wouldn’t know her well, I also know Aoife Kavanagh.

That said, nobody could excuse what happened and nobody could condone this sort of journalism. Fr Reynolds, whom I’ve never met, was defamed in the worst possible way and he deserved the massive settlement that was paid to him.

The chain of events that led to the broadcast going out air remains to be brought into the public domain but suffice to say that the ramifications will be far reaching and severe.

That said, this is still the station which exposed child clerical abuse at a time when the church itself was in denial.

States of Fear, which lifted the lid of child abuse in industrial schools, and the scandal of Goldenbridge – that should be RTÉ’s legacy, its contribution to the exposure of Ireland’s darkest past, not just its shocking libelling of Fr Reynolds.

RTÉ boasts some of the finest journalists in the country but right now they are under siege and under scrutiny even though they contributed nothing to this debacle.

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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