GDP: An unsophisticated measure of a nation’s well-being

Ireland’s economy is now growing at its fastest rate in seven years, according to the latest Quarterly National Accounts [1]. The figures, published by the Central Statistics Office, show the economy expanded by 7.7 per cent in GDP terms in the year to the end of June. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates are frequently used to measure the economic performance of a country or region. The more familiar use of GDP estimates is to calculate the growth of the economy from year to year and, indeed, more recently from quarter to quarter. The pattern of GDP growth is held to indicate the success or failure of economic policy and to determine whether an economy is ‘in recession’. But where does the concept, and the related Gross National Product (GNP),come from and what is actually measured?

GDP is an estimate of market throughput, adding together the value of all final goods and services that are produced and traded for money within a given period of time. It is typically measured by adding together a nation’s personal consumption expenditures (payments by households for goods and services), government expenditures (public spending on the provision of goods and services, infrastructure, debt payments, etc.), net exports (the value of a country’s exports minus the value of imports), and net capital formation (the increase in value of a nation’s total stock of monetized capital goods) [2].

President Roosevelt’s government used the statistics to justify policies and budgets aimed at bringing the US out of the depression. As it became more likely that the US would become involved in World War II, there was a concern about whether this would jeopardise the standard of living of US citizens who were just beginning to recover from the depression. GDP estimates were used to show that the economy could provide sufficient supplies for fighting World War II while maintaining adequate production of consumer goods and services [2]. It thus can be thought of as a measure of the potential fighting capacity of a nation at a given time.

The concept of GDP was developed by Simon Kuznets for a US Congress report in 1934, but even in this report Kuznets warned against its use as a measure of welfare. At the time it was conceived, GDP was a useful measure but the emphasis on growing GDP and economic activity is now leading the world back toward the brink of collapse. It is time for new goals with a broader view of interconnectedness among long-term, sustainable economic, social, and ecological well-being [2]. To this end I wish to reproduce a portion of a speech given by Robert Kennedy at the University of Kansas, on March 18, 1968. As governments struggle to measure wellbeing in other ways, it’s useful to look back at what then US Presidential candidate said about how this key dataset falls short:

“Even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction – purpose and dignity – that afflicts us all.

Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.

It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.

It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

If this is true here at home, so it is true elsewhere in world.”

NB. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Product (GNP) are closely related measures. GDP measures the total output of the economy in a period i.e. the value of work done by employees, companies and self-employed persons. This work generates incomes but not all of the incomes earned in the economy remain the property of residents (and residents may earn some income abroad). The total income remaining with Irish residents is the GNP and it differs from GDP by the net amount of incomes sent to or received from abroad.In Ireland’s case, for many years past, the amount belonging to persons abroad has exceeded the amount received from abroad, due mainly to the profits of foreign-owned companies, and our GNP is, therefore, less than our GDP. (Central Statistics Office, Cork)

[1] Burke-Kennedy, E. and Minihan, M. (2014). Irish economy growing at fastest rate in seven years. The Irish Times, Thursday 18th September 2014.
[2] Costanza, R., Hart, M., Posner, S. and Talberth, J. (2009). Beyond GDP: The need for new measures of progress. The Pardee Papers/No. 4/January 2009. Boston University, Boston, MA.
[3] Marcuss, R.D. and R.E. Kane. (2007). US National Income and Product Statistics: Born of the Great Depression and World War II. Bureau of Economic Analysis: Survey of Current Business 87(2): 32-46.

Have we fashioned another unique Irish bubble?

As a country Ireland has suffered more than most from the international financial crash of 2008 chiefly due to an over-reliance on the construction sector. But I fear that another unsustainable economic bubble has now been shaped. (Re)building an economy focused on one industry and model is a high risk strategy, a case of all eggs in one basket. For Ireland, over the past number of years our government has promoted the country as the main European headquarters and destination for largely US-based ICT corporations and industries. But alas, these firms may not be here for the indigenous educated flexible workforce and ideal working environment but rather the very generous corporate tax rate on offer.

My concern is that many of these companies are in Ireland because we facilitate tax avoidance. At present, Ireland has a corporate tax rate of just 12½% but it has been reported that some major organisations pay much less than this [1], although the department of Finance disputes these figures. Nevertheless, even the government’s own recently commissioned report maintains that Ireland’s corporation tax averages out “at just under 11%” [2] (corporate tax rates across the EU ranged from 10% to 35% [3]). These powerful corporations have found our leaders readily available to meet and listen to their needs [4] resulting in the country being at the centre of a controversial storm over multinational tax avoidance due to aggressive tax strategies deployed here by the likes of Apple and Google. Last year US senators John McCain and Carl Levin publicly stated Ireland was a tax haven after it emerged Apple paid taxes of just 2% on its foreign earnings in 2012 [5]. The ‘double Irish’ is a tax avoidance strategy that multinational corporations use to lower their corporate tax liability. The strategy uses payments between related entities in a corporate structure to shift income from a higher-tax country to a lower-tax country [6].

Moreover, Google continues to be our biggest exporter [7] but I pose the question; what does Google make and how can it be appropriately quantified? While I acknowledge they build/create software such entities are very difficult to define in terms of where they are built or assembled. Code can be downloaded and uploaded from any destination in a matter of seconds/minutes so who can really tell what components have emanated from where? And exporting these products takes place virtually not in trucks and ships leaving Dublin port. Furthermore, in which jurisdiction are profits created and is it right that such profits that do not emanate from here are washed through Ireland? Seamus Coffey, a lecturer in economics at UCC, maintains; “Google does not generate its massive profits from 2,000 or so sales staff based in Dublin. These are replaceable and moveable without any significant cost or loss to Google” [8]. This suggests a very flexible and highly mobile workforce with limited ties to Ireland. Should conditions change or opportunities to move to another European city be provided how many of these workers will dig in their heels to stay?

But surely we have a well-educated workforce to sustain this sector if others leave? On closer inspection this may not be the case. Our universities have begun to fall behind our European neighbours in term of OS rankings [9]. In its ICT Skills Audit, the non-profit training promotion agency Fastrack to IT (FIT) estimates that there are 4,500 vacancies in Ireland’s ICT sector [10]. These are not being filled, because of “the severely limited supply of suitably skilled applicants”. Furthermore, Irish students fall far below their EU counterparts when it comes to learning and speaking other languages. The end result is that multinational ICT companies, attracted here by our corporation tax rate, are forced to recruit staff from overseas to fill their Irish offices [11] and many of the multinational ICT companies have expressed concern at this skills shortage even as they establish new operations here [12].

That said, the importance of the digital economy to Ireland at present is significant. The ICT sector in Ireland attracts global investment with nine of the top ten US ICT companies operating here. There are over 200 IDA supported ICT companies, directly employing approximately 36,000 people, which represents 22% of total exports, estimated at €35 billion [13]. At present, these employees live and pay tax in this country but broad questions must be asked about this sector and how sustainable it is in the long-term. The continued success, or otherwise, of this sector, moreover, may not lie in our hands. Pressure for tax reform is now coming from our European partners [14] the OECD [15] and the US [16]. Many of these proposals aim to ensure that corporate profits are taxed where economic activities generating the profits are performed and where value is created.

As a country we have form and panache when it comes to creating unsustainable economic bubbles. Those who lived through the recession of the 1980s remember the closure of the massive FDI factories (largely built with the aid of huge tax concessions) across the country leaving many communities decimated. Our most recent bubble, fuelled by the construction sector and cheap credit, is still vivid and the hurt continues right across our society. Once again, as with previous ‘miracles’, we have no champions that question a strategy that places our recovery in the hands of large globalised corporations. I suggest that relying on the goodwill of such organisations to stay on the peripheral of Europe once fairness has been restored to the European tax system is foolhardy. I hope I’m wrong, but my gut feeling says otherwise.

References
[1] RTÉ. (2012). Effective corporation tax rate may be only 6.5%. Wednesday 24th October 2012. [Available from www.rte.ie/news/2012/1024/343020-corporation-tax-rate/]
[2] The Department of Finance. (2014). Effective Rates of Corporation Tax in Ireland. Technical Paper, April 2014. [Available from www.finance.gov.ie/sites/default/files/140407%20FINAL%20Technical%20Paper%20on%20Effective%20Rates%20of%20Corporation%20Tax%20in%20Ireland.pdf].
[3] European Movement Ireland. (2014). Just the Facts – Irish Corporate Tax. [Available from www.europeanmovement.ie/just-the-facts-irish-corporate-tax/].
[4] Ross, S. & Webb, N. (2012). The Untouchables: The people who helped wreck Ireland, and are still running the show. Dublin: Penguin Ireland.
[5] Carswell, S. & Keena, C. (2013). Questions remain for US senators over tax law. The Irish Times, 17th October 2013. [Available from www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/ireland/questions-remain-for-us-senators-over-tax-law-1.1563332].
[6] Darby, J.B. (2007). International “Tax Planning: Double Irish More than Doubles the Tax Saving”, Practical US/International Tax Strategies 11(9), 15 May 2007.
[7] Irish Exporter Association. (2014). Information and Communications Technology (ICT) continues to dominate Ireland’s exports. [Available from www.irishexporters.ie/section/IEATop250ExportersPublicationNamesGoogleIrelandasLargestExporterinIreland].
[8] Coffey, S. (2014). The great corporation tax debate. The Irish Independent, 22nd April 2014. [Available from www.independent.ie/business/irish/the-great-corporation-tax-debate-30205317.html#sthash.mazzfuS8.dpuf].
[9] The Guardian. (2014). QS world university rankings 2014: top 200. [Available from www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/ng-interactive/2014/sep/16/-sp-qs-world-university-rankings-2014].
[10] Fastrack to IT. (2013). FIT ICT Skills audit launched, highlighting shortage of suitable job applicants in key tech fields. [Available from www.fit.ie/index.php?page=ict-skills-audit].
[11] McCabe, S. (2013). Lack of language skills hurts our employment chances. The Irish Independent, 15th October 2013. [Available from www.independent.ie/business/irish/lack-of-language-skills-hurts-our-employment-chances-29659509.html].
[12] Whelan, G. (2013). Open minds, open hearts, open Ireland. Forfás White Paper. [Available from www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/media/committees/jobsenterpriseandinnovation/OPEN-IRELAND—WHITE-PAPER.pdf].
[13] IDA Ireland. (2014). Information & Communications Technologies. [Available from www.idaireland.com/business-in-ireland/information-communication/].
[14] Bettendorf, Leon, Michael P Devereux, Albert van der Horst, Simon Loretz, and Ruud A de Mooij (2010). Corporate tax harmonization in the EU. Economic Policy, 63:537-590.
[15] OECD. (2014). Centre for Tax Policy and Administration: BEPS – Frequently Asked Questions. [Available from www.oecd.org/ctp/beps-frequentlyaskedquestions.htm].
[16] McCabe, S. (2104). Obama plans to axe tax advantages for US firms investing here. The Irish Independent. 8th May 2014. [Available from www.independent.ie/business/irish/obama-plans-to-axe-tax-advantages-for-us-firms-investing-here-30253939.html]

When Friday Comes!

Some of the many guys who have played on a Friday evening in Mervue

Each and every Friday evening for the past twelve years the all-weather pitch in Mervue is the venue for the greatest assortment of tough guys and cry-babies, divers and whiners, kickers, flickers, hoggers, cloggers and boggers, crossers, headers, no-gooders, spoofers, yellers, tacklers, show-offers and exhibitioners to have ever laced their boots in Galway. The gathering has evolved from an over-35’s kick around for some veteran Mervue players to an over 40’s, then over 45’s, and now closing in on a half century congregation made up of ex-players from a wide array of clubs whose main purpose is the lasting satisfaction of playing football at a competitive but enjoyable level.

There is a fundamentally social element to this regular get-together, one rooted in participation in sport and community in Galway. Many of the players have forged links and friendships competing against each other over the years for different clubs across the city. Mervue United, Cresent United, Bohs, West United, Hibs, Thermo King, Renmore… no quarter asked and none given during their playing days but always mutual respect which ultimately leads to lasting friendship. The power and enduring influence of sport, no matter what the code, is epitomised by this group, an assembly that has now evolved to having regular social get-togethers and trips abroad.

And so to the issue of representative football at national level for Galway. With three strong competing football entities vying for supremacy in a county with the carrying capacity of one League of Ireland team a solution to this impasse may not come from above, a cauldron of strong personalities and legitimate but narrow self-interest. Transformation and footballing realism is more likely to be decided and more sustainable from the ground up, a Galway Football Spring so-to-speak. Friday evening’s gatherings ought to be held up as an inspiration and provide motivation for comprise in this respect… but don’t hold your breath!

Whatever does happen one thing is assured; battle re-commences next Friday evening with plenty of commitment, arguments, slagging, anger, and sore limbs… and I can’t bloody wait!

Eamon ‘Chick’ Deacy; much more than a Legend!

Chick focussed on the ball | The Salthill Fives

Galway is in a state of shock with the sudden death of Eamon ‘Chick’ Deacy and for many the unexpected nature of the news has utterly devastated us. His passing, before starting his usual route delivering fruit and vegetables across the city, from a suspected heart attack leaves us reeling, much like being on the receiving end of one of the crunching tackles he was renowned for. The passing of someone loved and admired is always distressing, but the disbelief that it’s Chick is palpable. The man was the epitome of a sportsman; never smoked, rarely if ever drank, never over-weight, and had continued to play football when called upon to this faithful day. But he was more than just a sportsman; he was a gentleman and an unquestionable decent human being.

The term ‘legend’ is commonly overused and often simply lacing a pair of boots for a number of years is enough to earn that accolade. With this in mind, it’s not fitting to simply call Chick a legend because for so many he was more than just an ordinary footballer. Having been part of the famous fourteen at Aston Villa for the league winning 80/81 season and the foremost trailblazer from Galway to play football in the UK, the pride that we felt in him was (is) immeasurable. He was our representative at the top table of football, our ambassador, and he never let us down. Many who travelled on the West United trip to the game against Southampton that season spoke of ‘pride’ and recall the respect his teammates had for Chick, a respect that was extended to his family, friends, and neighbours from Galway. It was not enough for the players that day to simply meet and greet Chick’s Galway people they pushed the boat out transporting them to pubs and clubs across Birmingham, in their own personal cars. Somehow, in an age of multi-millionaire footballers I don’t think that same level of respect for teammates, and by extension family, friends, and neighbours, exists today.

So we mourn the passing of a true Galway sporting icon and hero today and his impact on our lives will be enduring. Chick had all the attributes that we should aspire to for our own self-realisation. He was quietly persistent, tough as nails on the pitch and humble off the field of play, with a kind self-effacing approach to life and to the people he met daily. He was undeniably called to the dugout far too early because, as usual, he was playing the game of life just like the true pro he will always be!

P.S. an aside for many Galwegians will be an interest in the photo accompanying this post. It was taken at the Salthill 5’s and some other notable Galway individuals are closely monitoring Chick’s close ball control.

From Public & Private Space to Social Space: An appeal for slowing down

I’ve recently read an interesting post on the World Streets: A New Mobilities Agenda blog where Eric Britton writes that we need to ‘move toward a new paradigm for transport in cities, and it all starts with… slowing down’. He expanded on an emerging paradigm for the development of our cities, a redefining of the view of space as public or private to the concept of social space. Eric, in his post, presented slides from Carlos Felipe Pardo’s talk at the Stuttgart Conference of Cities for Mobility which clearly demonstrated the reduced field of vision of a driver as he/she drives through streets at various increasing speeds. It culminated in a situation where the paths/sidewalks were not there for a driver at 50 KPH, clearly a recipe for tragedy and possible disaster.

This salient message to reduce speed got me thinking about the recent proposal for the redevelopment of the rather large roundabouts in Galway into more pedestrian and cycle friendly traffic light systems, a proposal that has met with some strong opposition from certain quarters. The main objection appears to be that it is unwise to stop or slow down traffic in the city, even when these roundabouts are in built-up residential areas and have no safe crossing systems for walkers, joggers, or cyclists. I drive through these roundabouts from time-to-time and can testify that many drivers increase their speed whilst traversing these junctions in order to get the most beneficial exit lane and position. This has led to a situation where people literally ‘take their lives in their hands’ attempting to cross these horrendously dangerous intersections.

Galway is a beautiful city to live and visit and we should be rightly proud of what we have to offer. Visitors do not expect to drive unhindered through the heart of any urban area and it is in the interest of business and commerce that individuals slow down and stop occasionally to view their new surroundings and environment. God forbid, they might notice that ordinary people walk and cycle in our city, stop for a while and enjoy the beautiful walkways and ambiance we have to offer and, maybe even purchase something. For those of us who live in the city it is also important that we realise that our built environment is not solely the domain of the private motor vehicle, and that other ‘strange’ people actually enjoy walking or cycling from place-to-place. We may even be tempted to walk or cycle a bit more ourselves, secure in the knowledge that we have a safe environment for such activity and, more importantly, we’re not alone. Indeed, the large tracts of urban space given over to the automobile may need to be reclaimed by everyone regardless of their mobility choice and become, once again, social space for all.

The Queen’s Speech, Dublin | 18th May 2011

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh made their first state visit to the Republic of Ireland from 17th May to 20th May 2011, at the invitation of the President of Ireland Mary McAleese. It was the first visit by a British monarch to the Republic of Ireland since 1911 and the visit was seen as a symbolic normalisation of British-Irish relations following the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. She also delivered a widely praised speech on the 18th of May on the history of relations between the two countries and she offered her sympathy and regret to all those who had suffered from centuries of conflict between Britain and Ireland in a powerful and personal address to the Irish nation. This Wordle of her speech proves an interesting visual of the actual speech content, the emphasis she placed on certain words, and the message she attempted to get across to her audience.

Ecosia, The Green Search Engine

Ecosia is a social business dedicated to environmental sustainability via the donation of revenue to the world’s most effective rainforest protection programs. Their best-known service, the search engine mask at Ecosia.org, is powered by Bing and Yahoo. It lets an essential and routine task like searching the web double as an ecological contribution: not only are Ecosia search emissions offset, but every click on a sponsored ad within Ecosia translates into either cents for the environment, or cents for generating more cents for the environment. Cents may not sound like much, but they certainly add up. From its inception until December 2010, Ecosia was able to generate just under 125,000 Euros (164,000 USD) for its rainforest protection program with the WWF, and that in just the first year!

Check out more about this great and interesting idea by visiting them HERE and see the Ecosia search engine HERE.

Our cities are full of cars when they should be full of people

Travel and mobility must be a fundamental consideration in the promotion of sustainable development, production and consumption in Ireland. Governmental policy over the past number of decades has focussed almost exclusively on roads building and the infrastructure required to accommodate the automobile and other road-based travel (see Transport 21), often neglecting the social and spatial consequences of these decisions. This has exacerbated issues of congestion, pollution, and social exclusion in our towns and cities, and indeed rural areas. Furthermore, private cars currently use vast amounts of fossil fuel for propulsion and recent green initiatives simply seeks to change this to viable alternative such as electricity or bio fuels options. I would argue that without some essential reconsideration of car usage itself what we’re effectively doing is changing one source of energy consumption (one that is causing serious environmental damage such as greenhouse gas emissions and pollution) to a possibly cleaner alternative but we’re still consuming energy at an unacceptable and unsustainable level and turning over our cities and town to traffic. Rather than merely changing the energy source what we should be doing is encouraging people to use the car less and adopt healthier and sustainable modes of transportation such as walking or cycling, where this is possible, and utilising public transport more often. This will help strengthen our communities and bring life and vigour back to our streets rather than traffic, congestion, pollution and danger.

There is no doubt that this view will meet some hostility and such a transformation will not happen overnight. Much of our current urban design philosophy is car-centric and this is reinforced by political decision-making that favour automobile transport. What do I mean by this? Well, try taking Public Transport to any out of town shopping centre or Retail Park. Try cycling to any of these facilities and if you do make it there see if you can find a sheltered safe bike shed. In my experience you are not encouraged to take Public Transport, cycle, or indeed walk to these centres and the additional rationale of free car parking appears to strengthen this observation. While car travel can be very rewarding in terms of mobility freedom, car-dependency is often the opposite of such independence. It can be temporally and economically negative in terms of the personal time and money wasted. It can also be damaging in terms of personal health, in addition to its environmental impacts and consequences. So before you drive your car through the computer screen in rage, let me make this final point. I’m not anti-car. I own and drive one myself and would be lost at times without such mobility freedom. What does worry me, however, is how the automobile shapes so much of our lives, both seen and unseen. We build roads through Historic sites to facilitate cars (the M3 through the ancient Hall of Tara), we demonise Public Transport for the money it receives but seldom question how much we spend on road construction and maintenance, and we exclude people from activities who don’t have access to a private car. I’m simply trying to broaden the debate, a debate that should not be exclusively determined by the (over)use of the private automobile.

David Engwicht in Galway

David Engwicht is an Australian social innovator and a significant international leader of efforts to reduce the negative impacts of the private car on our cities and towns. He is considered the fathers of traffic calming and is the inventor of the walking bus, Street reclamation, and the Universal Anchoring Device. He is the author of several books including three broadly available ones; Reclaiming our Cities and Towns: better living through less traffic (1993), Street Reclaiming: creating liveable streets and vibrant communities (1999), and Mental Speed Bumps: the smarter way to tame traffic (2005).

On Monday 24th May 2010, on a gloriously sunny day in Galway, David gave a very interesting and though-provoking presentation at the City museum, as a guest of the Galway Transportation Unit and as part of the county’s Smarter Travel Area bid. He challenged the audience to question their own personal travel behaviours and to view our traffic problems not merely as issues for engineers to fix but as a general social concern of design and how we envision our shared futures. Designing for the car does not have to be the centre of our mobilities universe and if we visualise urban movement without the automobile what would this be like? Walking and cycling may be slower but also more rewarding in terms of stimulation and social interactions. So, what do we want our cities to be, he inquired, a space for cars to get from A to B travelling at speed or a centre for fulfilling our shared human experience? The uncomfortable answer may very well be in our urban design and development and our current preoccupation with building more roads in, around, and through cities may not bode well for the future of alternatives to car travel.

A podcast of his talk is available by clicking HERE thanks to the freesource website Internet Archive, an non-profit organisation set up to build an Internet library.

Barbara Heisserer, David Engwicht and Mike

It’s time for sport to be taken seriously as a social good

A Galway Supporter urges on her team

Galway truly needs a person, or organisation, to champion sports in the city and county. For too long Galway City Council, Galway County Council, politicians and other civic leaders have paid limited attention to the provision of modern sporting facilities and offered little support to sporting clubs and organisations throughout the county. It is my belief that many decision-makers in the county have no real understanding of the benefits, both from a health and social perspective, of participation in sports and thus treat the issue in an off-hand inconsequential manner. Instead, they prioritise issues that will be economically beneficial or will afford them a ‘peaceful’ working day and evening. The worthy effort, time, and resources spent attracting visitors to the city must be commended, the Volvo Stopover being a good case-in-point with Deloitte estimating that the stopover was worth 55 million Euros to the local economy [1]. Nonetheless, the focus of decision-makers is too frequently skewed towards attracting visitors to the city at the expense of the local populace, and in particular local sporting organisations and activities.

In 2005 the Economic And Social Research Institute, in conjunction with The Irish Sports Council, released a report on the social significance of sport in Ireland. The key recommendation of that report is that sports policy in Ireland should recognise and support the social aspects of sport, taking account of social bonding, community involvement, and general contribution to the effective functioning of society that it provides [2]. This social dimension of sport has attracted growing attention over the past number of decades in the context of an interest in ‘social capital’. The concept of social capital refers to the social networks, norms, values, and understandings that facilitate cooperation within or among groups [3]. This might be understood as simply a new term for ‘community’.

As a way of emphasising my point on the lack of reasonable facilities, I suggest that the majority of playing pitches vested with Galway City Council, particularly soccer, are in poor condition. When I visited West Park recently I was transported back in time some 30 years. This heavily utilised pitch remains the same as it was when I played schoolboy football, with the massive dip in the centre and a dangerous and uneven surface throughout. I also, of late, sat and watched games at South Park on a surface that would have Roy Keane blowing a gasket (remember Saipan). Crestwood, Millers Lane, Renmore, Cappagh Park, Westside, Oranmore, Jes Pitch (to name just a few that come to mind), all these pitches would fail even the most basic and rudimentary criteria set down for participation in the Mayo Soccer league. A report for Galway City Council some two years ago also focused on the fact that the majority of playing surfaces were well below the required standard for participatory modern sport activities [4]. It’s grossly unfair on players, managers, and teams who train twice weekly, if not more, to then risk injury every Saturday/Sunday on sub-standard pitches which are poorly maintained through no fault of their own (it’s important to note that Galway City Council forbids any work to take place on these leased pitches without their explicit consent).

It’s time for some action and it’s time sport was taken seriously by the powers-that-be. The progressive clubs like Salthill Devon and Mervue Utd are to be applauded for the enormous efforts they have put in to improving their facilities, but the city and county have many other smaller, and just as vital, clubs which allow the various leagues and cup competitions take place each year. They need help not bureaucratic stonewalling, they need support and assistance and, more importantly, they need encouragement. Sport is providing an extremely important social service in Galway and it needs tangible and practical support from our local leaders.