This is not the easiest piece I’ve had to write but all of us in the Tyneside Irish Centre know it’s important to try to keep and improve our communications network in these frankly terrifying times.
Without much guidance from the British government we battled bravely on through a strange St. Patrick’s Day till the axe fell on Friday 20th March. On behalf of the officers and committee I must pay a huge tribute to the brave staff, customers and musicians who carried on almost like the Titanic Orchestra.
Since the closure our major concerns have been the welfare of our staff, the financial stability of the Centre and the safety and security of our building. I am glad to report that, as I write, these issues have been addressed successfully.
Thanks to HMG’s “ magic money tree” – the Job Retention Scheme - our staff wages are secure at 80% until at least the end of May; thanks to our bank (AIB) our cash flow has been protected; thanks to key staff coming in, our cellars have been shut down and the building secured. Pauline O’ Donnell and I have been able to divert phones and computer systems to operate remotely. Again, a huge thanks to all involved.
The key question everyone asks me is “CAN THE IRISH CENTRE SURVIVE?” The answer is a definite “ YES”. There is no reason now why we cannot start trading successfully again IF the current emergency is successfully overcome and I sincerely pray we all live to see the day.
Annual General Meeting
The AGM should have taken place on 25th March. There is no provision in the rules for a situation such as this and, therefore, I am proposing that the current officers and committee stay in situ until a meeting can be called – possibly remotely! The main business of an AGM is to receive the accounts and elect the committee. The accounts have been completed and we will look at how we might circulate them to members. The nominations for the committee remain valid until an AGM is arranged. We are not functioning without directors as half the committee are elected to serve two years anyway.
I have received many suggestions and requests about organizing a communication and support network and this is the next thing on our agenda.
We have invaluable contact details from our members’ database, the Thursday Club and Tara Club and the Cultural Society’s ROSS project and class records. I am trying as of now to get a group together to draw up a list of suitable volunteers and priority contacts. For example, there are several of our members living alone in quite remote rural locations. If you are interested in helping please contact us. You can simply e mail firstname.lastname@example.org
It would be good to hear from anyone with specialist knowledge such as legalities and safeguarding in this area. Meanwhile I know many of you will keep ringing round and keeping in touch with one another. It’s also fantastic to hear Liam Turner playing some great music every day on Facebook.
I would just like to record the passing of two members of our community whose deaths occurred early in March.
Brian Flanaghan was a stalwart Celtic fan and a regular in our bar until his health began to deteriorate about a year ago. He carried on managing a supermarket in Forest Hall almost to the end: he was always courteous and cheerful. May he Rest in Peace.
Shelagh Kilbane’s funeral on March 9th was conducted in St. Mary’s Cathedral by Bishop Seamus Cunningham. She was a good friend of our Castlebar bishop, the mother of ten children and widow of Brian Kilbane – one of the founders of the Westmorland Road club. A sad time but a great send off for Shelagh with dozens of Mayo and Achill mourners in attendance. It was an honour for me to render a last lament at the graveside.
Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.
I have had many phone calls in the last few days sending greetings and good wishes to the Irish in the North East. Just to say thanks to a few of them it was great to hear from Pat Speight in Cork, Dermot Hegarty, Feidlim McLaughlin, and the renowned accordion maestro -Joe Burke- from Co.Galway. Joe is suffering a little from a car accident a few months ago but he’s as hearty as ever.
Thanks if you read this far! We’ll be back with more soon. Best Wishes and Good Health to you all.
Secretary. Tyneside Irish Centre.