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Rising tide of cruise liner business could lift all boats



Date Published: {J}

I was sweltering in the Turkish sun recently when I gazed at a wonderful sight in the harbour at Kusadasi – six luxury cruise liners all jockeying for a massive berth so that thousands of tourists could disembark and spend their euros and dollars by the dozen for miles around.

A few weeks before that, I was in Liverpool when an even bigger cruise ship docked right in front of the iconic Liver Building – again delivering thousands of tourists right into the heart of the city.

Make no mistake about it, this is the future of tourism for Galway too – and it’s a vision that the city’s newest Freewoman, Mary Bennett, in particular has been accentuating for a very long time.

Thankfully that vision is also shared by the Harbour Board and the state tourism bodies, who all see the development of the cruise ship business as fundamental to the redevelopment of Galway port.

But even then it’s a bit like the Volvo Ocean Race – you actually have to see it to realise its potential impact. And while we’re not even looking to compete with Kusadasi with its six cruise ships on a busy day, even a slice of that would represent a massive shot in the arm for so many aspects of local business.

The ancient city of Ephesus lies less than half an hour by bus from Kusadasi itself; on the day that these cruise liners visited town, that delivered an extra 15,000 visitors from the ships to this one tourist site alone. And that wasn’t even the half of it. All of those on board the liners seemed to be American. You recognise that for two reasons – firstly, they’re very, very loud, but also, because every other tourist in Kusadasi is Irish.

So it’s easy to gauge their impact because they are everywhere, and they are spending because these cruise passengers aren’t on a penny pinching tour of Europe – they’re there to spend.

Many of them hire their own drivers and people carriers; they don’t want to mix with the rest of us on the tour buses. But if snobbery delivers a little extra to the local economy, then who should stand in the way of progress?

Galway’s aspirations are more modest – initially at least – and the cruise liners will be a little further from the city centre. But the principle remains the same; give them the deep-water facilities to stop here and watch them spend their money.

And this isn’t just for the city either; a driver I met in Liverpool had spent the previous day taking passengers from the ship on a tour of castles and historic sites in Wales – so there’s every reason to anticipate that Connemara and the Burren, for example, would see a significant increase in visitors on the back of a cruise liner business.

Galway wants to rival Cork where studies have shown that the arrival of around 50 cruise ships a year is worth over €40m to the local economy and supports more than 300 full-time jobs.

Next month an influential delegation of world tourism chiefs and cruise-line operators will visit Galway with a view to establishing the city as a destination port as the next crucial stage in this process.

The visiting delegation will include the head of Jamaican tourism and some of the largest cruise-line operators in the world, whose multi-billion dollar undertakings are based in Miami and operate in destination ports across the globe.

The beauty of all this – and with all due respect to the wonderful city of Cork – is that Galway already has an internationally recognised brand. We can thank Bing Crosby for immortalising Galway Bay in song, but at least it saves us the bother of having to explain where the sun goes down. We have some of the most wonderful, unspoilt beauty on our doorstep, but the problem in the past was getting them there when they might only have a day or two to spend in Ireland. So here’s the perfect solution.

The downgrading of our airport will undoubtedly have an effect on our tourist industry, but – while that’s a battle still worth fighting – the cruise ship business has the potential to dwarf that in terms of delivering decent spenders right to our door … or docks.

Galway proved itself to the world with the success of the Volvo Ocean Race two years ago and hopefully it will do that all over again next summer – but the biggest debate after the stopover was how would the city and county harness this to the benefit of all in the longer term.

Well here it is – developing the harbour to take in the big cruise liners, delivering the passengers into the city for shopping and sightseeing, food and drink, and then showing them the natural beauty of Connemara and the Burren, Mayo’s Ceide Fields, Westport, the Shannon and every other part of the west while we’re at it.

Someday we might look out on Galway Bay and see cruise ships lining up to dock overnight in our waters; it’s really just about using the natural resources we were blessed to be born with.

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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