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Archive News

Team managers are not a ÔcancerÕ on the GAA



Date Published: {J}

There are few more infuriating consequences of modern technology than the automated phone service, when you ring a number looking to talk to someone and you find yourself having to go through more numbers than a Minister for Finance before you finally give up anyway in utter exasperation.

But the VHI, God bless them, have taken this automated phone service notion to a whole new level – because now they use a robot to ring you.

So your phone rings and you pick it up and say hello, to be greeted seconds later by the female automaton who moonlights as the monotone voice on the sat nav, utterly devoid of any emotion or excitement as she launches into her sales pitch.

“This is an automated call from VHI Healthcare,” she drones.

“We have a wide range of something or other – would you like to be put through to…..” presumably, a human being to discuss your health care options.

Having recovered from the skipped heartbeat of infuriation that the VHI should ring me, a human customer, and not had the manners to put a human being on the end to make the call, I hung up before I had a stroke and had to take my chances with MRSA and the spring version of the winter vomiting bug in my local friendly, underperforming hospital.

Bu had I stayed on the line to talk to the VHI’s R2-D2, I probably could have enjoyed several minutes of one-sided interaction with a computer while the health insurance heads worked out how best to ensure consultants’ earnings are maximised from their private practices.

“Press one to skip the trolleys in A&E,” my inanimate friend might have said; “press two if you want to have your hips replaced before your legs fall off; press three for cataract surgery if you can still see three on the phone.”

“Press the hash key if you’d like to come in for a routine examination and pretend that you stayed overnight so that your consultant can lease out your bed to four different patients for four different overnight procedures all on the same date.

“You can talk to our remaining member of staff at any stage during this process by pressing in the correct order the numerical sequence that explains Archimedes’ quadrature of the parabola – and be prepared to wait, because we’ve cut back on real staff so that consultants can still make ends meet on those quarter of a million euro a year contracts.”

The sad side-effect of computerisation and technology is that you no longer have to talk to anyone to get your business done – and the VHI has taken it on to a higher level by not only offering an automated reception when you ring, but also a computerised cold-caller when you might otherwise be busy at work.

You can now bank online, pay your road tax, bin charges and television licence by computer, book holidays and hotel stays without every even darkening the door of a human being; you can travel by train, plane or automobile by booking on the internet, and you can do your shopping at your local supermarket without leaving the comfort of the couch.

Sometimes this is a good thing – you might not want to talk to some bored or frustrated bank teller or insurance salesperson – but most of the time, a little human interaction is no bad thing.

Sometimes a country comes up with a very clever idea – like the Danes who have come up with a very clever way of using your mobile phone when you’re stuck for a stamp.

From April 1, letter-writing Danes will be able to send a text message to pay the postage on a letter when the new Mobile Postage Service does away with stamps for standard sized letters.

Instead, people will send a text to the post office and get back a code they write on the envelope.

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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