What Tuam needs is a Town Philosopher
I WAS perched atop a hill over the weekend ruminating on how best to spread some harmony and enlightenment in the town I love so well, when suddenly I had a revelation — what Tuam needs is a Town Philosopher, a kind of Sham Socrates, to dispense wisdom and knowledge to the populace.
I tell a lie — I really came across the idea in Saturday’s Irish Times and they got it from The Guardian, which got it from a paper in Italy, so I reckoned I was entitled to a slice.
It seems the town of Corigliano d’Otranto, about the size of Tuam, in the heel of Italy, has appointed its own Town Philosopher and she’s going down a treat. She charges €15 a session and can’t keep up with demand for her services.
I’d pay that just to have the enduring puzzle of Coffey’s Big Dig explained or to have answered great imponderables, such as what exactly does the Town Manager manage and is there intelligent life in County Hall?
The Italians know about such things, so we should sit up and take notice. When the town of Falciano del Massice, near Naples, ran out of burial space, the council issued an edict banning dying. Now there’s innovative thinking for you.
So I reckon if Tuam were to have its own philosopher ensconced in the Town Hall, answering all our questions, then all our problems might not be resolved but we’d finally get some answers. We may not understand the answers, but it’d be better than not understanding why there are no answers. There’s a tautology in there somewhere — see, this philosophy stuff is easy once you get the hang of it.
With the Town Council facing the hemlock, the appointment of a Tuam Town Philosopher could provide a useful function for at least one of the endangered Town Hall Nine. My money is on Tommy Reilly, a true philosopher, a man out standing in his own field. Who would not pay money to listen to Tommy philosophise? Then there’s Larry Bane, a man of well-hidden depths. He’d do fine. Owen Ward must be in the running but I’m not sure if The Herald could survive him taking his musings elsewhere. A happy compromise would be Imelda Kelly. Her philosophy may be homespun, but her infectious laugh would finally sort out the meaning of life in Tuam for us all. She could job-share with Mary Loftus or maybe Sally Ann. There again, Pat O’Hora would look great in a toga, as would Paul O’Grady (not in the same one, mind) while Eamon Kitt could orate for Ireland. Our cup runneth over.
It may take the Oracle of Tuam some time, however, before he/she can match the Sage of Croagh Patrick, aka Enda, An Taoiseach and a fellow Mayo man to boot. Here’s how he explained away the conundrum created by neglecting to tell his Labour colleagues in Cabinet that the head of the HSE had handed in his cards:
“There is a difference between speaking and using words. I mean you have to use words to speak. Maybe the words were used but they did not speak exactly. Because there’s a difference between words speaking and using words.”
That’s clear enough so. Maybe we can get the master to give the holder, or holders, of the Tuam post a few tips, if Eric Cantona is not available.
Winston Churchill, another great political philosopher, had an approach to existentialist angst that I myself have adopted. When asked for his philosophy on dealing with criticism and adversity he said: “I get into bed, turn out the light, say ‘bugger the lot of them,’ and go to sleep”.
Plans to build depleted uranium storage facility in Tuam’s Palace Grounds being opposed
This piece, one of many on the Palace Grounds, was first published in October 2007. Our effort at a wake-up call.
A PLAN to build a hazardous waste incinerator and a storage facility for depleted uranium from nuclear power plants in Tuam’s Palace Grounds park is being opposed by Luddite Greens, environmentalist lunatics and assorted oddballs (fresh-air fiends), bent on denying the town any sort of inward investment.
I’m reliably informed that the town mothers (the majority of Tuam Town Council members are now female so town fathers no longer applies) are set to reject this €2 billion investment because they want to protect the integrity of what remains of the Palace Grounds.
Imagine turning away money like that! What are they thinking? What about the jobs that would be provided? There’d be the stoker to get the plant fired up in the morning, a few guard dogs and this being an Irish plant, 47 managers.
Aside from the direct employment, there’d be money made selling sandwiches to the truck drivers ferrying the hazardous waste to Tuam, not to mention the overtime for undertakers dealing with the fallout. Are these people interested in progress at all? Ya can’t ate scenery!
The plans seen by The Tuam Herald clearly show that the incinerator will fit snugly into the centre of the park, leaving plenty of room, for those up to the challenge, to walk around the electrified perimeter fences. After all, only dogs and children use the centre of the park now and there are no votes there.
What a brilliant compromise. The town gets this huge, inward injection of cash, a few extra jobs, and the public still have a place to walk in the evenings (provided they wear gas masks, radiation suits and have security permits).
Standing in the way of this utopian vision of progress and prosperity are a handful of cranks who still believe in that quaintly old-fashioned notion that a park shouldn’t have to justify its existence and that the town is blessed to have such an area of tranquillity and beauty at its heart.
These people believe open, uncluttered, green space has a value in itself and the town and its citizens are the richer for it. They object to it being filled in piecemeal until it will, some say, resemble a dog’s dinner of ‘good ideas at the time’ projects. If these dinosaurs are allowed get their way, the Palace Grounds will be nothing but, well nothing but a park. Worse, they seem to have secured the backing of the Town Council, which believes what’s left of the park should be left as a park and that there’s plenty of room elsewhere in the town for the likes of skate parks and playing pitches — even if it means supposedly turning down grants. What can you do with such idealists?
But all hope is not lost. If there’s one thing that seems to get the goat of Galway planners, it’s green space in public ownership being left unmolested. Look at Eyre Square. The Palace Grounds park is an itch that just has to be scratched.
On first getting their hands on the property, they carved large chunks out of it for housing and a school, somehow managing to ignore the fact that the town at the time was surrounded with open space which could have been used. But this would have involved leaving that marvellous open area intact and that might have set a really dangerous precedent.
Since then, there have been proposals for all sorts of roads running through, skirting, not really taking up much room at all, and not really a road at all, as well as a running track, crazy golf, a leisure centre (completed) and the latest, a skate park and two soccer pitches.
We really must be on our guard lest the naysayers lose this latest important investment. I mean, look what happened the plan to put a roof over the town? It wasn’t taken seriously and the planners took the hump. Another great opportunity lost. We can’t, we must not let this happen to the nuclear waste recycling plant.
Luckily for those of us who see the park as a potential development site rather than a community resource, we have County Hall on our side. And if there’s one thing the boys and girls at County Hall have, it’s long memories. Having being thwarted in their ambition to run a road that wasn’t really a road through part of the park a couple of years back, they’ve bided their time. Now we have another road in the pipeline and a proposal to build a skate park and two astro-turf pitches. Mark my words, those of us in favour of progress will wear down the eco-terrorists protecting the bit of the Palace Grounds that remains until, finally, they’ll see that there’s nothing left that’s worth saving and it can be concreted over as nature intended — for the greater good, of course.
(First published in The Tuam Herald of October 2007)