From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
From the Western People 28 July 2004
By The Jaundiced Eye
2, Aug 2004 - 10:38

Bev bites back at media critics

Beverley Flynn was in fighting mood when she arrived at the Humbert School last Thursday afternoon. She had appeared at the Mahon Tribunal on the previous day and was subjected to extensive media coverage in the national print and broadcast media. The appearance at the Humbert School offered her the opportunity to hit back at her media critics - and she certainly didn’t waste the opportunity. The main focus of Deputy Flynn’s critique was the national print media whom she accused of intrusion, insensitivity and arrogance. She said the attacks on both herself and her political opponent, Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, were an example of the natural Dublin bias that existed in the national media. "Dismissive, disparaging, snide condescending remarks are the stock in trade of many Dublin journalists when they speak of people outside the Pale. […..] Ms Flynn said she was the "only person in banking" who had been "vigorously pursued by at times a very hostile media", in spite of reports involving several financial institutions which have been in circulation since 1998.

I liked the way she links herself with Enda Kenny – perhaps hoping that his halo will cast some light on her increasingly dark future? I know she was speaking at the Humbert School here in Mayo where she might expect a more sympathetic audience but she can’t simply blame Dublin journalists for her plight. She displayed incredibly bad judgement first of all in taking a court case that she was likely to lose from the start. She must also know too that local newspapers are a completely different press animal to a national daily or national Sunday paper. Local papers do not do investigative journalism on any real scale so they can’t afford the Charlie Bird, George Lee type of investigation that led to the NIB and AIB scandals. The local papers cover a huge amount of territory every week covering every tiddly winks game and football match in the county – it’s a massive undertaking to see the fantastic amount of information that is contained in the papers every week. But local papers don’t do the in-depth commentaries and highly targeted opinion pieces you see in the Sunday or daily papers. Local papers have to live in the community - the local space is too confined for people to write what they really feel. But if Ms Flynn was feeling singled as the ‘only person in banking’ - she is now just one of a crowd after the NIB report. The NIB report will ensure that not only will the bankers involved be pursued vigorously by the media but also by the DPP and the courts.

Castlebar shops gutted

A fire that swept through two well-known business premises in Castlebar last week is believed to have started accidently. Fire officers and members of the Garda forensic team are continuing to investigate the cause of the devastating blaze at The Stuffed Sandwich café and Amber boutique at Main Street. While the Gardaí have remained tight-lipped it is understood that foul play is not suspected. The Stuffed Sandwich and Amber were extensively damaged when a fire, which is believed to have originated in the café, blazed through the first floor which joins both the premises. …. The fire broke out in the Stuffed Sandwich at around 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning last, July 20th, when an ambulance driver noticed the blaze while passing through Main Street. The fire was under control within twenty minutes but not before extensive damage was done to both businesses, which are relatively new to the area.

Luckily no one was injured. Toasted sandwiches anyone? I know it’s not funny but I couldn’t resist repeating the comment which had appeared on the Castlebar Bulletin Board by about lunchtime on the day of the fire. I passed the burnt out shops on the morning of the fire. The fire brigade were still there. The two buildings are truly gutted with the roof just a bare shell. So check your fire alarms folks!

Ancient souterrain is discovered in west Sligo

An extensive souterrain has been discovered in west Sligo following the appearance of a hole in a road leading to a remote beach area. The man-made underground passage and circular chamber are about four feet under the tarred surface of the road near the Harbour Bar in Pollaheeney. The hole appeared in the road when part of the roof slabbing on the passage collapsed. Some time ago other man-made passages were discovered in the area when a new house was being built. "We had the archaeological society out from Sligo and building work was held up while they surveyed the souterrain," said publican Gerry Browne. He explained that there are a number of forts in the area with at least four of them close to the area where the souterrain is located. A number of local people and some visitors to the Harbour Bar have entered the passages and travelled through them for up to twenty feet.

We know so little about our past and as a nation we’ve put very little into archaeology. That stuff we learnt in school about our supposed past - Tuatha de Dannan, Na Fianna running through the forest without breaking a stick - is all just so much legend. It’s probably as genuine as the Irish dancing costumes dreamed up in the 1950s – the stories are not backed up by any reality. But there is a hard reality and it is to be found there in the ground - our archaeology is our past.

Finds like this Sligo souterrain, if properly excavated and studied using modern scientific techniques can surely tell us what our ancestors got up to on a daily basis. What did they eat? What did they wear? What diseases did they suffer from? Unfortunately so few sites have ever been really studied properly. Wood quay perhaps before they demolished it. But the hundreds of quite large ‘ring forts’ around Castlebar – we know nothing. We just call them ‘fairy forts’ – a sign of our pathetic ignorance of the people who lived here in Castlebar a thousand years ago or more.

We know more about ancient Greece than about ancient Castlebar and people seem to accept this without even thinking how odd it is. Even in Athens today they are excavating away finding new material all the time. No one has ever done a real archaeological dig in Castlebar I suspect – a few enthusiastic amateurs have poked around but nothing backed by serious funding and serious science. Unfortunately too, even our archaeologists seem to come from arts backgrounds, eschewing modern techniques.

All of our ring forts should be properly mapped and dated by professionals using modern scientific techniques – there are hundreds of old homesteads here, a thousand years old or more. Studying them collectively rather than in isolation would surely build up a history of ancient Castlebar. Can we date them all and establish what the local population size was at various periods? What crops did they grow? What animals did they keep? What were the trade routes? How did they defend themselves against the Coveys down the road? Even hundreds of years later the use of techniques such as DNA analysis has some chance of establishing the roots of ancient people whose bodies are still in the ground. Can we link these people – our real local ancestors to our modern genes and to the gene pools of modern day Europe and Africa? The scientific methods are all there and the computer techniques to process the results and extract patterns – Carbon dating, ground radar, pollen analysis, DNA analysis – lots and lots of methods but we will not spend the money to do this properly. Even the famous Ceide fields – they used iron bars to delineate the fields and sleans to dig the turf. Archaeology is a real poor relation in science.

I was horrified too at the new legislation proposed by the Minister for the Environment to allow for the fast-track bulldozing of our past. Bye-bye to any chance of being able to properly investigate and get to grips with archaeological finds like the one described in the Western People this week. The Minister is effectively giving carte blanche to people like the land-owner who bulldozed a major ancient national monument – a mound fort near Slea Head a few weeks back.

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