Tag Archives: Fintan O’Toole

Staging Society – Revolutionary Texts at the Absolut Fringe

For those who may have missed it, this post was published on last week in the run up to the ‘Revolutionary Texts’ series of readings and discussion at the Absolut Fringe Festival.

As part of this year’s Absolut Dublin Fringe Festival, a particular series of events is looking at plays that struck a chord with the political and social systems of their times.  The “Revolutionary Texts” series will feature readings of a series of Irish plays from the late 1980’s and 1990’s that are political and directly socially reflective in nature and which today are capable of provoking as much debate as they did when they received their first production.

The programming in the Absolut Fringe programme is right on the nerve of current trends of social discussion and investigation. This is, after all, now the Ireland where economists are the new house-hold names, top-of-the-bill speakers and best-selling authors. Morgan Kelly drew a sell-out crowd at the Kilkenny Arts Festival and Fintan O’Toole spoke to a packed and hushed Town Hall Theatre in Galway in November last year. David McWilliams toured his Outsiders from the Abbey Theatre to various theatres around the country.

For the rest of this article see the ‘Centre Stage’ section of here.

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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Theatre


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Enough is Enough: Fintan O’Toole at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway

“Use it or lose it”, the audience who packed into Galway’s Town Hall theatre last night were told, in a discussion with journalist and author Fintan O’Toole. What we have lost as a people and as ascribed by O’Toole is our democracy. We have inherited the feckless and contemptible gambling debts of those who played hard and bet big but ultimately, the house always wins.

O’Toole sets out his stall early in the evening: “Before this is a crisis of economy or a social crisis, it is a crisis of democracy”.

Fintan O'Toole

For over thirteen years a government was charged by the people to guide them to the best of their ability through a period of unprecedented growth, prosperity but also crucially of credit. The staggering ineptitude of the ‘make-or-break’ decisions made on our behalf over the past two years has seen the quicksand creep up around us. The failure of our banks and of financial regulation has been well covered and documented. The people know now what has happened. What we don’t know is, well, where do we go from here? Where is the starting point of change, recovery and ultimately of reform?


O’Toole asks the audience, what do you say to a 20, 21, 22 year old graduate when asked “What is there to keep me in Ireland?” The frank answer was reiterated by the audience, that being blank silence. Entire generations have lost connection with their home and their country, a faith so broken it may never be repaired. They have simply been let down. The title of O’Toole’s new book is “Enough is Enough” and this shares the sentiments of all in Galway last night. The evening was not about creating economic treatises or formulas or detailed debate on the ins and outs of the international bond market. David McWilliams was in the same venue just a night previously for a more focused talk on economics. The discussion was on reform, reform of the failures of past governments, reforms of the attitude of entitlement and reform of the very political system that allowed these failures to occur.

O’Toole puts forward five myths within the Irish political system, those being the myths of the Republic, Parliamentary Democracy, Representation, Charity and Wealth. He adds to this five decencies identifiable in the Irish people and which that they should receive indefinitely: Security, Health, Education, Equality and Citizenship. Reforms of these abuses would give power back to the people and continue this process of renewal.

Be under no allusions that O’Toole presents himself as a messiah or saviour. Neither he, nor McWilliams or any other person who speaks out to the public would claim to have a quick fix. By coming to Galway last night and by McWilliams touring his Outsiders to all regions of Ireland is to hand back some sense of power to a people long since dispossessed of that security. They speak directly and frankly, and vitally also with a sense of positivity that we can emerge from the coming years somewhat intact. Security has been lost through disengagement with a government which has lost its mandate and which did not act transparently and accountably for the good of all citizens.

When we will emerge from this coming period of uncertainty, and emerge we will, reform will have had to be widespread and immediate. This starts with each individual and a night like last night is not a bad place to start. Enough is enough.

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Posted by on December 2, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Archives in Crisis – Reaction

Action on Archives

On the first sun-filled Saturday of Summer, a darkened and windowless lecture theatre would hardly be the first choice of venue to spend ones day. However, it certainly was for the 250 people who packed the Robert Emmet Lecture theatre to capacity in Trinity College for the Archives in Crisis symposium.

Organised by the Action on Archives group, headed by T.C.D. Research Fellow Dr. Peter Crooks ,the event was also organised in association by the Society of Archivists (Ireland), headed by Cecile Chemin. The symposium was chaired by Dr. Diarmaid Ferriter, Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin. The panel of guest speakers included Catriona Crowe of the National Archives, Eunan O’Halpin, Professor of Modern Irish History at Trinity College and Fintan O’Toole, Deputy Editor of the Irish Times.

The meeting was scheduled to tackle, for the first time by public debate, the proposed merger of the National Archives and the Irish Manuscripts Commission INTO the National Library of Ireland, put forward by the Government in the December 2000 budget. Described as the biggest risk to Irish documented heritage and records since the shelling of the Four Courts in 1922, the meeting certainly did address and tackle this issue of merging the Archives and Library, with O’Toole calling it an “idiotic proposal and symptomatic of the back-of-an-envelope and ill-informed politics that has brought Ireland to the current state of crisis it finds itself in today”. Given the crowd and undoubted public interest in the future of Irish records and archives, the meeting also addressed ‘action on archives’ that must be taken nationally and in all aspects of the profession, its funding, its service, its accessibility and its direction from the Department of Sport, Culture and Tourism and its Minister.

Catriona Crowe, representing the archivists’ branch of IMPACT trade union, addressed the distinct lack of storage capacity that prevents the National Archives from acting on its statutory obligations to receive, catalogue, preserve and disseminate the records of the Irish state as appropriate. Today, records even dating back to the nineteenth and eighteenth lie at risk in the government departments as the National Archives, despite desperately wanting the records, do not have space, staff or budget to take in the records. Staffing levels in the National Archives are at 45 people, the National Library of Ireland has a staff of 100 and the National Museum has a staff of 200. These figures are but one reminder of the funding and personnel issues which are at crisis point at the National Archives. Crowe argued strongly for the necessity for the re-establishment of the National Archives Advisory Council, which was established under the National Archives Act of 1986. The NAAC has not met since 2007. A vocal and informed NAAC is an absent and vital cog in the efficient and dedicated service of the National Archives.

Fintan O’Toole has through the columns of The Irish Times, of which he is assistant editor, has long been an advocate for stringent or at least consistent and beneficial policy on archives and state records from the Government and at the National Archives. The ability of any citizens of a nation to truly know one-self and grasp at the idea of national identity is through the actions of its National Archives. In the wake of recent damming and horrific reports of abuse and deliberate destruction of records in institutional schools, Magdalene laundries, mental hospitals and general hospitals, how we as a people and nation respond to these crises will tell forever more. Through the records and archives of these forgotten Irish and forgotten institutions the stories of those who were previously silent can now be heard.

In fact, the theme of health records, with particular emphasis on those records of Irish mental hospitals, drew particular attention and debate from attendees of the symposium. It was obvious from the passionate interest from audience members, with reference to health records in particular, that ‘action on archives’ is indeed needed in many aspects of how records of health and education are documented and preserved.  Events that lie beyond the immediate hands of record keepers such as the fire that gutted Longford town Cathedral on Christmas morning of 2009 must be averted in the future. Countless birth, death and marriage records as well as priceless golden crosiers were destroyed in the fire but it was only from the ashes did officials realise that these records were even kept in the cathedral.

The Action-on-Archives organised symposium on the current crisis in Irish state record keeping was a hugely positive starting point. It is the primary goal and objective of the group to oppose the loss by the National Archives of its autonomous identity. The work by Peter Crooks to bring this event together should not be lost and should prove to be the first step of a united effort to lobby an uninformed Government decision and highlight to a public the vital importance of the consistent adherence of the National Archives to its statutory obligations, they primarily being safeguarding and preserving of records of the Irish State and therefore also, the actions of a people and government.

For Further Information Contact:

Peter Crooks –!/group.php?v=wall&ref=search&gid=379393677441


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Action on Archives

Action on Archives

Archives in Crisis: 

A Symposium to Debate the Future of Archives in Irish Society  

Saturday 10 April 2010, 3 PM to 5 PM 

Robert Emmet Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, Trinity College, Dublin.  

Moderator: Diarmaid Ferriter 

Speakers: Fintan O’Toole, Catriona Crowe, Eunan O’Halpin 

 In 1922 the bulk of Ireland’s documentary heritage was destroyed. This symposium poses a stark question: what will be the state of Irish archives in 2022 on the centenary of the Four Courts blaze? 

Presentations will discuss the cultural significance of archives in Irish society and the proposed merger of the National Archives of Ireland into the National Library. This will be followed by an open forum, during which audience members will have an opportunity to pose questions and share their views on archival policy in Ireland. 

The meeting will conclude by taking nominations to a new Action on Archives committee, which will seek to make representations to appropriate bodies. 

 Admission Free – All Welcome  

Courtesy of Action on Archives

For further information, contact Dr Peter Crooks, (01 896 1368)

Organized in association with the Irish Chancery Project, Medieval History Research Centre, 

Trinity College, Dublin


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