Tuesday 21 May 2019

Hello Gorey, this is Oban calling

Fintan Lambe

The Gorey Council chamber was invaded by the Scots last week. At the start of their monthly meeting, the District councillors wheeled their high-backed swivel armchairs to the centre of the room, as if preparing for battle, sitting in a formation something like one would see on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

Captain Malcolm 'Kirk' Byrne was at the helm, with first mate Cllr Pip Breen beside him, gazing intently at the large screen on the back wall.

'We are getting interference. It's as if you are underwater. We're not getting every word,' came a disembodied Scottish accent over the loudspeaker, and then it became apparent that one of the figures on screen was speaking.

It was a slightly patchy start, but Wexford history was made as the councillors began their monthly meeting with a 45 minute video conference with two councillors in Gorey's twin town of Oban in Scotland, and with an Argyll and Bute Council official some 100 miles away from them.

The junket-preventing exercise was made possible by the IT departments of Wexford County Council and Argyll and Bute Council, who were boldly going where no Council has gone before. The radio microphone in Gorey was giving problems, but part-time DJ and councillor Anthony Donohoe saved the day by fetching a lead to provide a more reliable wired connection.

As Oban councillor Ian Stewart Maclean battled with the patchy sound travelling across the Irish Sea, he gave a run-down of how things have been since the towns last met six years ago. Finances are tough there too, and they won't be visiting any time soon. His fellow councillor Elaine Robertson was anxious to maintain links. Council official Shirley Macleod was also keen to reinvigorate the twinning arrangement.

With the link from Gorey improved, Councillor Byrne hoped the two towns could continue to learn from each other, and that links between groups on both sides could be strengthened, but money is scarce here too.

'For this to gain traction, we would have to look at a particular project,' said Cllr John Hegarty. Hundreds of miles away, Cllr Robertson agreed. It was decided that Shirley Macleod, and Gorey District Manager Amanda Byrne will explore what concrete outcomes can be achieved.

'For it to be worthwhile for everybody, it has to be meaningful and have benefits for both towns,' concluded Ms Byrne, before repeating her sentiment several times, as the link to Scotland began to repeatedly crash. They'll talk again.

Gorey Guardian