Diary September 1985 - Travellers, Ted Nealon and the Arts

Apartheid: AT 11AM ON THURSDAY August 22, people were walkking in and out of Gardiner Street employment exchange to get their dole money. About twelve people who looked as if they were going to go in stopped at the gate and waited. Another eight stood about twenty yards from the gate.
By 11.15 the gate was allmost completely blocked by twenty-five people waiting in a queue at the gate, and a further twelve stood nearby. These people were travellers. Two officials and a garda stood in the doorway of the employment exchange lookking at them.

The travellers explained that they queued up there every week. While other people were allowed to walk in and out without hinndrance, they were made to stand in a line outside every week, no matter what the weather. Sometimes the garda would approach them and try to get them more into line. All travellers have to sign on at llam every Thursday. They are usually allowed innside at about 11.45, they say.

Just before 11.30 the offiicials and the garda began looking at this reporter and a Magill photographer who was also present to record the operation of the Department of Social Welfare. One poinnted at us. Another came out to the door to have a look. At 11.30 - fifteen minutes earlier than usual, according to the travellers - they mootioned to the travellers that they were now allowed to enter the employment exxchange.

The officials stood in front of us as we made our way innside. They said that we were not to take any photographs inside the building. This was an offence under law, they innformed us.

Once inside, an official said that the travellers had not been queueing outside. The man in charge, a Mr O'Donnell, came out and told us that the travellers did not have to queue up. "If they want to queue outside that's their business," he said.

The travellers do not want to queue outside. But they are all given the same signinggon time, and when they arrive they are not allowed in until most other people have left. Mr 0 'Donnell said that this arrangement was for adminisstration purposes. "What addministration purposes?" we asked. "It suits the Departtment," he said.

We asked the Department why it suited them. They gave the opinion that "there is large-scale fraud going on among people of no fixed abode." A spokesperson said that there were no figures available to back up this opinion.

The travellers that Magill spoke to say that they are not involved in large-scale fraud, or even in small-scale fraud. One said that if we came down every Thursday morning and asked questions they might be let in to get their money a quarter of an hour early every week.

Mark Brennock

Bleedin' Arts

IF ONE IS PUZZLED BY the smiles on the cunning faces of the various drunks, liggers and full-time freeeloaders one comes across in Dublin's lesser watering places, our Art Corresponndent may enlighten you. We are told that this is true. We don't want to believe it is, but we are told it is true.

It seems that Arts (I) Minister Ted Nealon last week announced that a furrther £35,000 of taxpayers' money is to be handed over to the Annaghmakerrig rest home for the culturally priviileged.

(May we intervene here with an anecdote about the Arts [!] Minister? Once upon not very long ago we wittnessed a scene involving the Arts [!] Minister. It was in the lobby of a Longford hotel. Ted was bringing out a Fine Gael newspaper at the time. He was introduced to a photographer. The photograapher has since been appointed a member of Aosdana, the State Licensed Artists Group (SLAG). He was and is noted for the sensitivity and unique vision of his snaps. "Have you," said Ted, speaking around the brush-handle-sized cigar in his mouth, "any glam shots? I could use some glam shots." The photograapher gulped a couple of times and noted that it was a fine day for the time of year that was in it.)

Anyway, writes our Arts Correspondent, Ted's latest donation on our behalf brings to over £200,000 the amount contributed by hapless taxxpayers North and South of the border to the welfare of the inhabitants of the rest home.

The rest home was left to the nation(s) by the late Tyrone Guthrie. It is a fine establishment wherein those of fevered artistic brow can retreat from the cares of the world. There they labour, or don't labour, depending on the mood that strikes them, to give artistic expression to the reality of the world which they have left behind. Food and lodging provided free.

In this pampered environnment, goes the theory, artistic forces will be unleashed which will etc etc etc. We have yet to see any evidence to support this, but since we would be labelled philistines if we didn't believe it, we believe it, honest, we do. It's called· faith.

August 22 saw Annaghmaakerrig's "open day", which was as good an excuse for a booze-up as any. Among the artists who enjoyed the hosspitality of the house (sponnsored booze) were Brian Friel, Bruce Arnold, Dolours

Price, Donal Whelan and Stephen Rea.

They were joined. by such "prominent personalities" as Tony 0 'Reilly's missus an d Eivind Bratt. Eivind Who? we hear you say, demonstraating your ignorance of the great artistic strides which this nation has been taking under Ted's guidance. Eivind Bratt, that's who. Eivind, as everyone of artistic bent is aware, is the ex-Swedish Ammbassador.

A day and. extended night of carousing, crack and excesssive belching was had by many, with "sessions" all over· the kip. Mrs O'Reilly brought along two of her daughters. John Meagher, "deputy executive vice chairrman" of Independent Newsspapers, who is employed by Mrs O'Reilly's hubby, was there for some reason or other, probably to bring a touch of culture to the prooceedings.

Among the current guests of the nation at Annaghmaa.kerrig is someone who is writing a script for Channel 4 and a BBC drama producer. Also John O'Conor, the pianist with the name that looks shorter than it probably should, .

We searched high and low for an impoverished artist. All we could find were people who can well afford their own drink and sandwiches and who would not be short of the price of a B&B if they wanted to get away from the hurly-burly.

Could someone in governnment please take some time off from closing hospital wards and have another think about this? Gene Kerrigan

Beyond the Pale

SIX FAMILIES WHO HAD applied unsuccessfully for Council houses were victims of "a sick joke", The Nationaalist reports. The paper reports that congratulating letters sent to successful applicants by Deputy MJ. Nolan Fianna Fail were tampered with and diverted to unsuccessful candiidates.

Deputy Nolan said "It was a cruel trick to lead people to believe they had been allocated a house when they had not. Some of these people live in sub-standard condiitions in caravans, mobile homes and flats and were anxiously awaiting the outtcome of the Leighlin bridge housing accommodation [deecision] ."

He said that it was a pity the perpetrator was not availlable to see the distress and anger caused when he had to tell them they had been the victims of "a sick joke".

Suggesting "dirty tricks" the Deputy commented "I regard this as a deliberate attempt to discredit me and it is only one of a number of incidents in recent months in which my name has been falsely used."

A call by Deputy Brendan Griffin at a Tipperary Urban Council meeting to relocate the Charles Kickham and Maid of Erin monuments was strongly opposed by another councillor, the Tipperary Star tells us.

At the meeting, Deputy Griffin said that the monuuments were being slowly chipped away by lorries and he wanted to avoid the desstruction of the monuments. They would both end up like the Croke Memorial monuument at Cashel if they were not moved to a suitable part of the town, he said.

Speaking against the Fine Gael TD's suggestion, Counncillor Jimmy O'Shea said he was vehemently opposed to 'the moving of the monument. "The Black and Tans failed to shift the Maid of Erin so why should the council see fit to do so," he added.

Mystery still surrounds reecent "earth tremors" at the County Sligo resort ofMullaghhmore according to the Sligo Champion.

The paper reports that a couple returning home from a dance in the area, heard a high pitched noise coming froin the sea, "sounding like a giant stamping his foot," said Michael Langton. His companion Margaret Rhatigan said "it sounded like a sledge hammer banging against a door."

"There was a definite patttern," she says, "with about a seven-second break before each noise started again. And this high-pitched banging happpened about ten times. It was frightening and very loud."

Investigating the "tremors" <'. the Department of Defence say that there's a possibility that a foreign submarine visiited Sligo's shores.

Army intelligence have "drawn a blank" as to what" local people saw and heard that night. "Something obbviously happened out there but there is not enough hard evidence to pinpoint anything in particular. Weare relying on the gardai to come up with something spectacular before we can investigate further. Intelligence drew a blank," said one army source.

Local politics can be a profitable sideline, the Doneegal Democrat tells us.

County Donegal's newly elected local representatives are reaping the generous beneefits of expenses and subsisstence allowances available to them, according to the paper.

The allowances, which are paid under the Local Governnmen tAct 1941, are reviewed from time to time by the Minister for the Environment. The last review in December 1983 fixed the travelling rates for local authority members at 53p a mile and a flat subbsistence rate of £15.40 for members living within five miles of the meeting centre:

According to the Demoocrat, the allowances have reesulted in politics becoming a well paid "nixer" for many of Donegal's local represenntatives and for an elite group who are on a number of commmittees and for whom poliitics has turned out to be a real financial bonanza.

It is little wonder thereefore, that at the recent local election there was a clamour .in the main parties from people looking for nominaations, the paper adds.

E.N. Kelly