Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Muintir na Tíre involved in Community Alert and Community Enterprise Development

Muintir na Tíre have been involved in many initiatives and projects throughout its history. Some of the projects they have been involved in include rural electrification, building of community halls and centres, EEC Pilot Project for the Training of Trainers and The Tidy Towns competition. Further information on the many projects they have been involved in can be found here.

Some of the files that I have recently catalogued have dealt with two big initiatives that Muintir na Tíre have been involved in. Both of these initiatives involved community development and empowering the local community to work together.

The first initiative is Community Alert which Muintir na Tíre are still involved with today. Muintir na Tíre became involved with Community Crime Prevention back in 1985. The idea of Community Alert was Muintir’s response to a number of vicious attacks on elderly people in 1984 and 1985 in rural Ireland. 

Muintir na Tíre worked with An Garda Síochana to establish the community crime prevention programme. Neighbourhood Watch had been introduced in urban areas in 1984 and Community Alert was launched in 1985 for rural areas.


Community Alert was organised by local community councils or interested local people with the help of a Muintir na Tíre Development Officer and a Garda. Community Alert road signs were erected in local areas and a local campaign was established.

Funding for Community Alert was provided by government departments including Department of Social, Family and community Affairs, Department of Health and Children and Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The files in the collection give us a great understanding of the development of community alert and how Muintir na Tíre were to the forefront of its development. To find out more about the Community Text Alert Scheme run by Muintir na Tíre today visit here.

The second initiative that Muintir na Tíre was involved in was with the Youth Employment Agency. They employed an Enterprise Development Officer to work with community groups to establish community enterprises to create jobs in the local community. 

The beginnings of an initiative to have full time staff involved in community development training began with the EEC Pilot Project in the 1970s but it was not until the mid 1980s that they got to initiate the initiative. Through the support and financial backing of the Youth Employment Agency, which later became FÁS, they were able to employ a fulltime Enterprise Development Officer.

This work was led by Eamon O’Sullivan, the Enterprise Development Officer, and he worked with numerous community groups such as Burgess Community Enterprise Group, Castletownroache Community Enterprise Co-op, Galbally Community Enterprise Group and Tallow Community Enterprise Group.

The files detail the work that Eamon did with each group to investigate and establish various community enterprises. They also detail how the state agencies were working with different groups to improve the unemployment situation that was in Ireland during the 1980s. 

The programme ran until 1988 and while there was some success with industries formed by local Enterprise groups not all groups involved in the programme were a success. The files provide us with great insight into the programme and how Muintir na Tíre worked with government departments. The programme was another example of how Muintir na Tíre was always working with communities to be self-reliant.

There are many more examples of the initiatives that Muintir na Tíre were involved in in the collection and this shows the impact and involvement that they have had on Irish society in their 80 year history. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Public Lecture by Fintan O’Toole and new Exhibition to Mark the Publication of "Judging Shaw"

NUI Galway in conjunction with the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) will host a public lecture by Fintan O’Toole entitled ‘Bernard Shaw and the Uses of Celebrity’ to mark the publication of Judging Shaw on Tuesday, 7 November at 6.30pm.

The event will take place in the Aula Maxima at the University and will be followed by a panel discussion on “Making Judging Shaw” moderated by Professor Patrick Lonergan, NUI Galway with Ruth Hegarty, RIA, Barry Houlihan, Archivist, James Hardiman Library and Fintan O’Toole.

Judging Shaw is the fourth book in the Royal Irish Academy’s award-winning ‘Judging’ series and looks at the legacy of George Bernard Shaw (GBS), Nobel prize-winner for literature and internationally renowned playwright, intellectual and commentator.

The book, written by Orwell-prize-winning journalist Fintan O’Toole, traces the growth of ‘GBS’, the first great global brand, and discovers how Shaw created this most modern of concepts. Judging Shaw brings together a new insights on the making and invention of GBS, the complex relationships Shaw had with both England and Ireland, through times of revolution and after; reconsiders the ‘dark side of GBS’ as well as his death, commemoration and legacies. The illustrated volume features over one hundred digitised archival documents, sourced from institutions around the world, including NUI Galway’s digital theatre collections at the Hardiman Library, many published for the first time and which visualise the great achievements and also wide range of networks Shaw lived and worked in.

Also being unveiled is a new exhibition to coincide with the publication of Judging Shaw. Co-curated by Barry Houlihan of NUI Galway, Ruth Hegarty and Jeff Wilson of the Royal Irish Academy and Fintan O’Toole, the exhibition brings a wealth of archival images and stories from Shaw’s remarkable public and private life, drawing on many experiences such as time spent in the West of Ireland at Coole Park, the home of Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory, Shaw’s political and socialist writing, his theatre as staged in London, Dublin and also in Belfast after his death. The legacy of Shaw is considered in the ‘afterlife of GBS’, how his work was staged in contemporary times and how his life was commemorated. Before he died, Shaw noted those around him were ‘going Shaw-mad!’

The exhibition will be open to the public at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, NUI Galway.

George Bernard Shaw has left a vast legacy of theatrical, fictional, polemical, critical and philosophical writing. The first person to win both a Nobel Prize and an Academy Award, Shaw bridges the Victorian era and the contemporary culture of celebrity. The GBS brand came to be recognised globally as referring to an Irish provocateur with a red beard and startling opinions. He was a master of self-invention, a nobody who captured the zeitgeist and one of the first private individuals to understand fully how to generate—and how to use—global fame.
Scene from John Bull's Other Island, Belfast, 1971, Lyric Theatre Archive, NUIG

Speaking in advance of the public lecture, Professor Patrick Lonergan, said: “We are delighted to welcome Fintan O’Toole and the Royal Irish Academy to NUI Galway to explore and celebrate the life and work of George Bernard Shaw. This university is deeply committed to preserving our nation’s theatrical heritage through our work in archives, allowing us to offer courses that give our students a unique behind-the-scenes perspective on Irish theatre.  We also are strongly committed to promoting awareness of that heritage through talks, publications, and other activities. This beautifully produced book and the fascinating exhibition that accompanies it will bring huge pleasure to readers and theatre-makers around the world, ensuring that Shaw’s legacies – as a dramatist and a political thinker – will have an impact for generations to come.” 

George Bernard Shaw
Fintan O’Toole said: “Shaw had an ambivalent relationship with Ireland, but Ireland had a very ambivalent relationship with Shaw. He is by far the most influential, famous Irish person who has ever lived. There is no other Irish person that had the global reach that Shaw had. He is a vast terrain. It is a pleasure to see the book translated into an entirely different medium in the exhibition and one of the things that you see in it is that as well as being a great thinker, a great political activist, great dramatist, as well as that he was one of the world’s great posers.”

Admission is free but places are limited so please register go to www.conference.ie

GBS posing for statue of his likeness

Monday, October 2, 2017

Muintir na Tíre and Community Development as evidenced in its publications

My colleague Marie Boran and I gave a talk for culture night on 22nd September. Marie focused on James Hardiman and I focused on Muintir na Tíre. The common thread we weaved through or talks was community development. Marie looked at how James Hardiman got involved in community groups in Galway in the 19th century and I looked at how Muintir na Tíre conveyed the message of community development and showed it in action in Rural Ireland and The Landmark in the 20th century

Rural Ireland, an annual publication, was first published in 1941 and was initially titled ‘Muintir na Tíre Official Handbook’ and renamed in 1948. Contained within Rural Ireland were reports from guilds, agricultural advice, short stories, historical articles and articles on community development, vocationalism, rural sociology, rural electrification, water schemes and afforestation. Details of the National Executive and affiliated guilds were published annually. It ceased publication in 1972 when the last Rural Ireland was published.

The Landmark, a monthly publication, was first published in August 1944. It was hoped that The Landmark would ‘pass into many hands, and will also be a binding force for the guilds of Muintir na Tíre scattered throughout the country. It will serve as a platform for their views, and it will tell them what others are doing in the country’. …..The Landmark goes forth as a banner to lead and unite the vocation of agriculture and bring Christianity to our fields’.

The Landmark had more recurring themed articles which were targeted at women, agricultural workers, young people, gardeners and those interested in GAA. Articles on The Parish Plan, agriculture, vocationalism, electrification, forestry, water schemes, youth in the community, agricultural improvements and guild updates were published. It ceased publication in 1973.

Muintir na Tíre came into contact with the term community development in the late 1950s. The definition of community development that Muintir na Tíre adopted was from the United Nations who defined community development ‘as a process designed to create conditions of economic and social progress for the whole community with its active participation and fullest possible reliance upon the communities own initiative’.

Looking at the two publications we can see many examples of how Muintir na Tíre were involved in community development before it became the organisation’s focus after 1958. Before 1958, an example is the development and the promotion of the Parish Plan which was devised by Professor Joseph Lyons UCC and P.J. Meghen, county manager for Limerick. Muintir na Tíre believed that any reform of Irish agriculture should be based on the parish as a unit. The plan was to be administered by the Parish Council (the guild), with the co-operation of all sections of the parish in the interest of balanced agricultural effort. It was also intended that the Plan would utilise to the fullest the existing schemes offered by the Department of Agriculture for agricultural improvement.

We see articles on what the plan will mean for parishes, how productivity will be increased and how it will improve farming in both publications. ‘Better Farming by the Parish’ by Professor J. Lyons in Rural Ireland 1949 lays out how the parish council can establish a plan and how it should be organised. A second article in the same issue titled ‘The Parish Plan’ states that the plan is to increase agricultural production so that the country may have an increased income and thus a greater spending power.

Muintir na Tíre were also involved in the promotion of the use of electricity in rural Ireland. Bansha was one of the first guilds involved in the promotion and use of electricity with electricity switched on on May 23 1948. Fr Hayes stated on the day that “rural electrification has given a new life and new light to our community” The Landmark, June 1948.

Articles on rural electrification began to appear in Rural Ireland in 1945. In 1947 we see articles discussing how Muintir na Tíre can help with establishing rural electrification in your area and in 1949 discussing how the scheme of rural electrification is progressing. There are numerous examples of the work of the guilds with the ESB and rural electrification found in both publications.

Post 1958 we see an increase on the number of articles on community development. An article by Rev M. Morrissey in Rural Ireland 1959 entitle ‘Canon Hayes – Pioneer of the Community Idea in Ireland’ looks at how Canon Hayes was developing a community spirit through his work in Muintir na Tíre.

Muintir na Tíre was supported by Professor George F Thomason, from Cardiff University who was known for his research and work in industrial relations. He wrote numerous articles and publications on community development for Muintir na Tíre. He notes in his article ‘Community Development – A view of Society’ in Rural Ireland 1960 that the term community development and the application of the principles of community development that is changing the face of India, Ghana and other countries is not something that need worry Muintir na Tíre as they have been doing the same thing themselves. 

Another big scheme that Muintir na Tíre got involved in in the 1960s was in local group water schemes and getting piped water to communities. The guilds got involved in the planning of group water schemes and piped water. In The Landmark in February 1962 there is information provided on how to form a group water scheme and when it is best to do this “many groups of people throughout the country have found that where suitable water is not readily available, big economies may be effected by a number of householders getting together and utilising one source of water and one pump for the whole group”.

Other examples of community development shown in the two publications include the involvement of guilds in the Tidy Towns competition. This was very much encouraged by headquarters as it was something that the guilds could lead on. In 1963, 66 guilds provided entries to the Tidy Towns Competition. This was an increase of 11 on 1962. For Muintir na Tíre this showed great community spirit.

While only a sample of how community development is discussed and evidenced in both publications it shows how heavily involved Muintir na Tíre were involved in improving local communities and aimed to “organise the different elements of rural life in Ireland into one body for the common good. It strives to promote the true welfare of Ireland, spiritual, cultural and material based on a wider and better knowledge and practice of Christian social principles”.