Let us not lose Galway-ness

In case you haven’t noticed it, the large section of the paper that has just fallen on your shoe is a 72-page magazine which we have produced to mark the fact that on this day 40 years ago, the first issue of the Galway Advertiser hit the streets. At the time, it was deemed crazy that a product could be given out free on such a mass scale and as you can imagine, predictions of its demise came thick and fast. However, it has stood the test of time, hence today we carry the baton into the fifth decade.

The magazine which we have produced will give people some sense of how the Advertiser was created, the people who worked hard here, the people whose contributions made it the slightly eccentric, less reverential organ that it is. However, important and all that that is, what the magazine will give you, more than anything else, is a sense of the place into which it was created.

The Galway of 1970 was a very different place to the city of today. Then it was really nothing more than a large market town, ruled with a heavy hand by the Church and the powers that be in the local authorities. It seemed to be a grim place far removed from the party capital of today. Indeed, of all the cities in Ireland, it seemed the place most unlikely to become a centre for the arts and culture and free expression of thought and opinion. Media members were called to the Palace to explain themselves as was my predecessor in this seat.

Regular patrols of the city were taken by the Bishop and his priests to ensure that nothing obscene was at large. I remember the alleged anecdote about the singer Mary Coughlan who allegedly sunbathing in a two-piece bathing suit at Salthill, was approached by a priest sent down from the prom to chastise her, saying “Young lady, the bishop does not approve of two-piece bathing suits,” to which she allegedly replied “Well, which piece does he want me to remove then?”

That Galway transformed to such an extent is a reflection on the people who changed all of that, coming to the city with fresh ideas and drive. In that regard, it left many other parts of the country behind. It has become a wonderful place to live in and to work in and so far has escaped many of the social problems that have blighted and continue to blight other similarly large centres of population through the country. And in doing this, it has created a sort of Galway-ness, a state of mind you would not find anywhere else in the State. It was this Galway-ness that was the key package in John Killeen’s briefcase when he went forth to canvass for Galway’s second lash at a Volvo stopover and it was this Galway-ness that perhaps helped him win it.

Such a state of mind was not created overnight. It was the fusion of myriad of artistic talents, of liberal politicians, of blow-ins mixing with locals to create a Galway pot-pourri, the scent of which makes us all stay here and consign ambition to the grave.

So how do we preserve the Galway-ness? We do so by honouring the people who make things happen, the do-ers, the achievers, the community leaders who must be given voice. We ensure that in the next decade, Galway will encourage a new generation of thinkers. We must be allowed to question our politicians and councillors more so that they will not make the same mistakes as they did in the past. Remember, when we hear political rhetoric locally now, that this is coming from the people who brought you Rahoon Flats and all their horrific conditions.

When the Advertiser turns 50 in April 2020, who will be named as the people who have made the difference in that decade? It will be a decade in which the nation will celebrate the centenary of 1916 — an event that will no doubt initiate a lot of soul searching and a quest to identify what sort of country we have become.

It will be the continuing objective of the Advertiser in the next decade to encourage freedom of expression so that every community has a voice, no matter how excluded it may feel. We have no doubt that Galway can produce a whole new generation of leaders who will espouse Galway-ness as the manifesto for the right way to live. So that all communities, all interests, all ages are treated with respect and dignity.

We can do this only with your help. The newspaper is now employing a variety of new media to interact with its readers. You can contact us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, email us and guide us on the path for the fifth decade so that in 10 years time, we will still be the community’s favourite newspaper, the one most truly reflecting the reality of Galway. But let it be a Galway that we still love.

Today, we mark the conclusion of the first four decades with a day of music and fun at our Eyre Square offices. Please come along and enjoy the entertainment. And from this morning, enjoy our entire archive which are online free of charge at archive.advertiser.ie

On behalf of the company chairman, the managing director, my fellow managers, my hard-working colleagues, I would like to thank you for allowing us through your letterbox for the last 40 years and I hope that we will be as welcome in the years to come.

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