Government is dragging its feet on WIT’s bid for justice and equality

This column was written before Taoiseach Brian Cowan announced his new cabinet so I don’t know whether or not Mary Hanafin will still be Minister for Education by the end of the week. However, judging by comments she made in Galway last week, we couldn’t be saddled with anybody worse from the point of view of Waterford Institute of Technology’s university aspirations.

It has been obvious for some time now that Minister Hanafin is personally against such a move and, last week, she highlighted another comment from the Dr. Jim Port Report to underline her stance. The main thrust of the British consultant’s findings was that WIT case was a good one and that university designation would boost Waterford and the South East region socially and economically. However, all that appears to have been conveniently ignored by Ms. Hanafin and all those opposed to Waterford’s bid for justice and equality but they have pounced on the two comments made by Dr. Port that could be construed as mildly negative.

Dr. Port pointed out that, if Waterford was successful, several other ITs could seek similar status and, of course, he was correct. Dublin, Cork and Carlow ITs were selfishly on the bandwagon like a flash but, instead of telling them to ‘cop on’, the government wrung its hands ignoring the hard fact that the main case for Waterford is that the South East is the only region in the country without a university and that its inhabitants are being discriminated as a consequence of that unfair situation.

Dr. Port also pointed out that Section 9 of the Universities Act failed to establish a clear criteria for university status and it was on that point that Minister Hanafin pounced last week stating that it would make more sense to establish such criteria before considering WIT’s application. She also pointed out that a strategy group on higher education would be established shortly that would examine the future direction of the seven existing universities, fourteen ITs and other colleges. Why the does the phrase ‘many years down the road’ immediately spring to mind?

Incidentally, and I don’t wish to be a harbinger of doom on this, but if the economic downturn continues as predicted, the discrimination against would-be university students from the South East will be amplified. Considering that it has been extremely difficult for parents to send their children away to university during the boom years, it will be even harder in belt-tightening times.

Meagher’s Sword

It would appear that we haven’t heard the last of the decision by Waterford City Council to donate the civic treasure that was Thomas Francis Meagher’s dress sword to the Irish-American Society as part of the celebrations surrounding Bertie Ahern’s address to the joint houses of the US Congress. The sword was presented to the city by Meagher’s widow in the late 1800s and many citizens and organisations are unhappy at its abrupt departure from Waterford.

The word is that several City Council members are also extremely miffed at the situation. The decision was taken by a sub-committee of the main council and the feeling of many of the other elected members is that such a serious matter should have been dealt with by a vote of the full council.

Sporting memorabilia for sale includes the ‘Shay Brennan Collection’

The well known County Kilkenny auctioneering firm of George Mealy and Company is hosting an auction of rare sporting artefacts in the Tara Towers Hotel, Merrion Road, Dublin, on Tuesday next, May 13th. The sale includes Soccer, GAA, Rugby and other unique mementoes.

Comprising 800 lots, the collection is expected to generate intense interest from local and national collectors keen to get their hands on a piece of genuine Irish sporting history. For those interested, there will be a public viewing of the collection this Thursday, May 8th., from 9.30am to 5.30pm at Mealy’s Auction Rooms, Castlecomer. If you have the time, it sounds like a very interesting exhibition.

Of particular interest to Waterford soccer supporters is ‘The Shay Brennan Collection’. Formerly of Manchester United, Republic of Ireland and Waterford United FC, a huge selection of Shay’s personal items will be on offer including an international cap, jerseys, a watch given to him by George Best, the boots he wore in the 1968 European Cup Final and many more. Items in this collection are expected to fetch between €100 and €5,000.

An original All-Ireland medal from Kilkenny’s first-ever hurling victory in 1904 and a rare Leinster football medal from Kilkenny’s last title win in 1911 are among a valuable cache of GAA memorabilia that will come under the hammer.

One of the most valuable single lots in the auction is a 1904 medal which is expected to reach between €12,500 and €17,500 on the day. The medal was presented to Jack Hoyne of Tullaroan, the parish that represented Kilkenny in the All-Ireland competition that year. In the early stages of the GAA competition, each county was represented by the club which won the local title.

The match took place against Cork (St Finbar’s) in Carrick-on-Suir on June 24, 1904 with Kilkenny winning by a point – 1-9 to 1-8.

Last year, a football medal of the same year sold for €7000 but Mr. George Mealy said he expected the hurling medal to go even higher, because it was such an important artefact of Kilkenny’s GAA history “It’s a very unique item and it would be the Holy Grail for any collector from Kilkenny”, he said.

Another rare item in the sale is a Gaelic football medal awarded to Kilkenny in 1911 when the county won its third and last Leinster football title. After winning the title in 1888, the competition’s inaugural year, Kilkenny went on to win two more titles, the last in 1911, and have not won one since. The medal is expected to fetch between €600 and €800 in the auction.

An All-Ireland hurling final programme from a 1913 match between Kilkenny (Mooncoin) and Tipperary (Toomevara) at Croke Park is also expected to do well

at auction, with a reserve price of between €2,500 euro and €3,000. The first-edition, eight-page book is not in mint condition but is considered to be a highly sought-after collector’s item anyway. Kilkenny won the match on the day, with a 2-4 to 1-2 win over Tipperary making them only the second team in GAA history to claim three titles in a row.

Another valuable item which may excite collectors is a ticket to the ‘Bloody Sunday’ football match between Tipperary and Dublin at Croke Park in 1920.

Described as ‘excessively rare’, this ticket is a reminder of the day when British soldiers fired into the crowd, killing 12 people and wounding 60 others.

Reports from the day described the bloodshed as the ‘scene of a holocaust’. Michael Hogan, one of the Tipperary backs, was mortally wounded while a dozen spectators also lay dead or dying. Conservatively valued between €5,000 and €8,000, the ticket has the potential to fetch far more as another ticket from the same match previously sold for €30,000.

There are many other medals on the auctioneer’s bill, including a host of gold and silver hurling medals from the 1960s awarded to Kilkenny and Bennesttsbridge (€3,500 – €5,000), an All-Ireland hurling medal won by Tipperary in 1916 (€2,500 – €3,500) and a Croke Cup medal won by Kerry in 1913 (€4000 – €5000).

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