Saturday, December 27, 2008

on passing by- again

Last month I wrote about the death of an innocent young man in Limerick. Government Ministers queued up to tell us that this was an isolated incident and not an attack on an already under siege populace. We were told that this marked a turning point, that things were going to change, that they we not going to put up with it anymore. All the usual pious sentiments filled the airwaves and yet only weeks later we have a fifty year old man murdered by a teenage thug with a pistol. I suppose we will now be told that this is a turning point, a change etc. The usual do-gooders were on to tell us that the gunmen was as much a victim as the dead man and we should force officialdom to ensure that he and his ilk are given all the help they need to become decent caring members of society. Well excuse me if this offends anyone but in my considered opinion that is drivel. Maybe if we hang the killer he will be as much a victim as the dead man. Until then they are just scum who should be rounded up and given the punishment relative to their crimes. When are the rest of us, the so called silent majority, going to be allowed to live our lives as decent caring members of society. Definitely not while these people are allowed control our streets and our fears.

As time goes on I am becoming more and more convinced that among Bertie Ahern’s attributes the most important must surely be his psychic powers. Is it not now obvious that the Tribunal was just an excuse to enable him to make his move to the back benches before the fan was inundated with the you know what. His prescience is absolutely astounding. If only Brian Cowen had his former mentors gift we could be in a totally different situation now. The Government, and us, could have been spared the last few months stumbling from crisis to crisis. I predicted after Berties abdication that Cowen would soon come to know the full horrors of the poisoned chalice he had so gratefully accepted but even I have been taken aback at just how full the chalice actually was.
Has anything gone right for Mr Cowen and his Government since he took over as Taoiseach?
We have seen the scandal of the cancer misdiagnosis rear its ugly head yet again as more women were found to have been given the all clear even though they had cancer.
We have seen what was arguably the worst budget ever brought forward by an Irish Finance Minister, presumably overseen by his boss, a previous Finance Minister. It was riddled with inconsistencies and showed an almost childlike understanding of the problems facing the country, combined with a flawed perspective of the likely outcomes. Did Mr Lenihan really not expect medical card holders to react. Did he think that people on the minimum wage really wouldn’t mind paying tax on an already meagre income. Did he really expect people to back a u-turn on class sizes. We now have a situation where the medical card and tax proposals have effectively been shelved. The Education row rumbles on with constant bad publicity for the Government. It now appears to be official Government policy that anyone shopping in Northern Ireland, despite the savings for people already under pressure, is committing treason. Imagine if Gordon Brown told U.K. citizens not to buy goods manufactured here. There would be justifiable uproar.
Lenihan called his budget “ a call to patriotic action”. Sorry Minister but it was actually more chaotic than patriotic. Perhaps the Minister should be reminded of Samuel Johnsons saying.
“ Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”.

Cowens sorry tale of woe continued with the Fas scandal. An organisation with an annual budget of over one billion, during a time of record lows in unemployment, was under two separate Garda investigations following allegations of fraud and misuse of public funds. These investigations were fairly low key and excited very little public interested. The amount involved was only in the low millions and, as Minister Dempsey told us in the good times, sure why waste your time worrying about Mickey Mouse money. Then the real information started to flow.
Thousands of euro’s on first class flights for Fas staff and Government officials . Rounds of golf for nine hundred dollars. Nearly nine thousand euro’s for a meal for six in the Shelbourne, including a nine hundred euro tip. Beauty treatments in America. Eighty seven percent of a budget meant to be spent solely on students actually spent on publicity and officials expenses.
Fas Director, Rody Molloy, used the Pat Kenny show to inflict a public hanging on himself. His arrogance was plain to hear as he talked about his “entitlements”. What about the rights and entitlements of the rest of us. At least he had the gumption to resign when the writing on the wall became ominously clear. When was the last time a Minister did that?.
Mr Cowens Health Minister, Mary Harney, continued to pile pressure on the Government when she announced a suspension of the proposed immunisation program for young girls which would have helped to stem a rise in cervical cancer in women. This possibly life saving program was, according to Government figures, to cost in excess of ten million euro and yet the vaccine suppliers said it would only cost sixty per cent of this figure. To compound the lack of joined up Government thinking Silly O’Dea, Minister for Defence, announced at the same time that one of the Government jets was to be upgraded at a cost of nearly eight million euro. Talk about only opening your mouth to change feet.
We are now less than three weeks to Christmas and we can’t find a rasher or sausage on the shelves. Our much vaunted food safety system has decided that shutting the door after the horse has gone is not enough. They have decided to demolish the whole barn! After being promised a quick return of supplies the processors are refusing to slaughter unless the Government indemnifies them for their losses. Going on past experience the Government will probably agree and show the world yet again that the Irish taxpayer is just a giant insurance company.

Finally a very Happy Christmas to all our readers, to my fellow contributors, all our advertisers and Tim and Rose I sincerely hope that the New Year will treat us more kindly than the outgoing one.
All for now. Mike Edmonds.
The late Jim Gaffney
The People’s Photographer
To many readers of The Bugle, the late Jim Gaffney will always be remembered as “The Leinster Leader photographer”, the man in the anorak, quietly taking photographs at a festival parade here in Ballymore or at Punchestown on Walking Sunday. Jim had a varied career before he ‘accidentally’ fell into photography – having submitted a wedding photograph in 1957 to The Leinster Leader, he gradually grew into the role of photographer and was the main supplier of photographs to the newspaper over fifty years, having captured the changing streetscapes of Naas and ‘people pictures’ over the decades. What made Jim different was his total lack of greed or need for acclamation – ie, any local publication, school project or indeed, requests from The Ballymore Bugle – Jim supplied the photographs for publication free of charge and no insistence that he be acknowledged for same.
Jim had a special fondness for Ballymore, his mother, Margaret having been one of the Fisher family from Bishophill. When the Leader requested Jim to take a photograph in Ballymore Eustace, it was likely that only one or two photos would be used – perhaps a GAA awards night, a cheque presentation or festival queen night, Jim arrived on time and waited patiently before the actual shot was taken. We are talking here about a Saturday or Sunday night, with remuneration only from the paper for the couple of prints used. I was embarrassed sometimes having asked him myself to take a picture at an agreed time but several hours later, with speeches and awards running over, Jim was happy to have a glass of stout and sit quietly in the background. “Ah sure, it’s me mother’s country here – I don’t mind waitin’ around, I know plenty…”.

The many memorable scenes he captured on camera of Naas saw him recognised as the recipient of the 2007 Naas Town Council Hall of Fame Award – “A person, I would say who been here at Naas Town Chamber on more occasions than any other citizen of this town.” said Naas Town Councillor, Paddy Behan, also of Naas Local History Group.
“Jim was one of a family of fourteen children born to Margaret and Tom Gaffney; he grew up in the Back Lane immediately behind the Town Hall, at a time when the lane and the streets in the heart of the town, were densely populated with large families, who lived in rows of simple cottages with half doors where everybody knew everybody else in the Naas of the 1930s and ‘40s.
He went to the Moat School and for some time came to school here in The Town Hall when it was used as an overflow classroom for the Moat School. When he finished school, Jim joined the ranks of Kildare Co Council road workers, based mainly in Caragh and throughout the war years, helped surface the roads of West Kildare with the occasional diversion to turf cutting schemes during the emergency era.
Like most young men of the time he enlisted with the LDF (Local Defence Force) and quickly gained repute as a marksman, becoming a member of the North Kildare Battalion’s shooting team. In 1950, he joined the army proper at the Curragh. However, army life in the 1950s was not very exciting and the pay was poor.

So like so many young people of his time, he took the boat to England and joined other family members in Manchester, where he worked on the buses and had vivid memories of the smog there when he often had to walk in front of the bus with a lamp to guide it through the gloom!

From there he moved to Lincolnshire to work in a locomotive building plant and as such, became a member of an engineering team for Britain’s first diesel electric engines. It was here that he made yet another contact with Naas Town Hall when he married his late wife, Kay Doyle from the Town Hall - an occasion which led to his returning to Naas for the wedding of Kay’s brother Tom. It was at this ceremony that Jim was asked to take some photos and, having completed a correspondence course in Manchester, he was happy that his prints were of publishing quality. He duly sent the wedding picture to The Leinster Leader in June 1957 and from there his photographic career began.

When he returned to live in Ireland in 1957, Jim joined the Naas Fire Brigade then based in the Town Hall. Jim remembered a very basic service consisting of a Thames Truck on which a 300 gallon tank was mounted, crew members answering the call of the Klaxon siren on the roof of the Town Hall and heading off to whatever emergency awaited them until his retirement in 1984.

But Jim had many talents - he was a keen angler and a talented player of the mouth organ and played regularly in the Town House Hotel, Naas.

In an interview with Liam Kenny of the Leinster Leader, Jim recalled his early work with the paper was mainly of the social scene around Kildare and West Wicklow: “The main events were the farmers’ dances in Lawlors of Naas and the factory socials such as the Kingswear night in the Downshire Hotel” said Jim.

“Amongst the Leader reporters that Jim worked with were Chris “Scoop” Glennon, politicial correspondent with the Irish Independent for years; Tom Brady, security correspondent also with The Indpendent; the late Nial Hanly, Micahel O’Toole who went on the Evening Press, John Lynch, Liam Kenny and of couse in latter years, with Leader correspondents Joan Walsh, Sylvia Pownall and retired editor, Michael Sheeran.

Despite working with many high profile journalists and meeting heads of state, celebrities, sports stars, Jim remained the same, un-assuming man behind the camera. He has photographed every major event for over fifty years from election counts, awards nights, angry demonstrations to a visiting president or Walking Sunday at Punchestown……….and that’s what was different about Jim Gaffney – he gave as much time to taking a shot of the council lads at work as he did taking the Mayor on duty in the Council Chambers. He would pay the same attention to senior citizens at their annual party as he would to the fashionistas on Ladies Day. For children participating in Ballymore Festival Parade who shouted “Take me, take me!” he duly obliged, knowing full well, he would only get paid for what went to press.

Before our own Chris took up the camera, Jim happily supplied us with photographs in The Bugle of local events but is for his work as a photographer with The Leinster Leader that he is best remembered. In latter years, his handwriting was a tad shaky and when I would ask Jim if it was Kate, Kitty or Kay on the caption, he would look bemused and say “What do you think yourself?”

As Paddy Behan said in presenting Jim with his 2007 Naas Town Council Hall of Fame Award; “A modest man whose pictures of people, places and things have graced the walls and mantelpieces of our homes and the pages of our local paper for the past 50 years”.

Had Jim charged or claimed copyright of his work over the years, he would indeed have been a wealthy man but that was not his style. He enjoyed his work, as much meeting the people as he did making a study of them on camera.

We extend our sympathy to his son Ger and members of the Gaffney and Fisher family. May he rest in peace, amen.

Rose B O Donoghue

Our thanks to Paddy Behan, Stan Hickey, Liam Kenny of Naas Local History Group and Maggie Fisher for assistance with this tribute.

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