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Tourism flagship building all set to make its final bow

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Date Published: {J}

Call me nostalgic, or sentimental, but I believe that when a major building in the modern history of a city like Galway seems about to ‘make its final bow’, then the event should be marked. That’s why the decision last week that gave the go-ahead for the demolition of the Corrib Great Southern Hotel should not go without a mention.

As yet, we do not know what precisely will replace the building . . . the indicators some time ago would appear to have been that the space would be marked by something as unremarkable as a car park. Maybe, in other times, before the economy fell off the cliff 18 months ago, it might have been replaced by blocks or apartments, or some ambitious project involving houses, apartments and shops.

It is sad to see what I would have regarded as one of the ‘tourism flagships’ of Galway, disappear. It is still a fine building, it is surely in an ideal location for an hotel – on the eastern approaches to a city which is daily getting nearer to Dublin, and to markets on the eastern side of the country. Just a few years ago it had a fine reputation as an upmarket hotel and conference centre that seemed to be trading well.

 

One of the problems with the decision to close and sell the building which was taken some years ago was that, certainly in my memory, we never got a breakdown in the figures as to how the hotels in the Great Southern Hotels chain were functioning on an individual basis.

All of the hotels in the group were under the wing of the Dublin Airport Authority which made it abundantly clear that it might know about running airports, but it did not want to know anything about running the hotels chain. It simply wanted to get them off its books.

The crisis broke some years ago when, in a statement to the annual meeting of the Dublin Airport Authority, it was made quite clear that the hotels were losing money, but perhaps even more importantly, that the DAA wanted nothing to do with the hotels. They were simply an encumbrance on a body which was wrestling with a huge development in Dublin and regarded anything in Galway, or Cork, as of nuisance value and a distraction.

However, for a time, those with a sense of history, and with a knowledge of the previous years, might have considered that maybe someone would again step in to save one of Galway’s most important pieces of tourism infrastructure – and I say that despite the fact that over recent years, we had had the construction of thousands of hotel bedrooms, many of them funded by tax breaks that seemed to go on forever and took no logical look at the eventual maximum possible size of the Irish hotels market.

There was a time when a slightly different attitude was taken. I have to go back to that old rascal Charles J Haughey who, when he was the man in charge of the moneybags, answered a direct appeal on the future of the Corrib Great Southern, by asking for a detailed case to be made, and then announced that there would be a multi-million investment package which was aimed at making The Corrib a conference venue, and growing its potential business, and giving it a real spruce-up.

For more read page 17 of this week’s Galway City Tribune

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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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Galway have lot to ponder in poor show

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

SLIGO 0-9

GALWAY 1-4

FRANK FARRAGHER IN ENNISCRONE

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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