Last month saw the return of the nationally renowned ‘Galway RAG Week’, a RAG week with a difference. There are few other places that can announce with glee that ‘our RAG week is so amazing, it has been banned’, a privilege bestowed on Galway some time ago.
The first dramatic headlines of the week didn’t take long to start and by Tuesday, every televised news report showed queues of hundreds of Galway students waiting anxiously for the first drink of the day at 9.30am, all while kitted out in the finest attire of a Donegal jersey topped off with the look that one only has whilst suffering from a steaming hangover inflicted upon themselves the night before (or in this case about three hours earlier). But what were the reports in aid of?
Whilst nobody is saying that hundreds of people willing to stand for hours, before breakfast, just to get a drink is admirable or commendable, there was nothing happening to warrant the country’s media to zone in on Galway as this out of control no-man’s land for the duration of RAG Week.
The same scenes were repeated in several places around the country like University College Cork and IT Carlow where RAG week was running simultaneously, but for some reason they didn’t make the news. Was there any less alcohol consumed or mayhem on the streets in these places? Absolutely not! They have one major advantage however, and that is that their RAG week actually means something.
The original message of ‘Raising and Giving’ week was lost in Galway when the decision was taken to ban any official celebrations. This may have had the opposite of the desired effect though as students are nothing if they are not innovative.
The ban makes the week more exciting for some and the widespread use of Social media means that the week still goes ahead despite the ban, but without the legitimacy that Carlow and Cork enjoy. They at least spend some part of the day raising money for worthy causes like Barretstown and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, even if it is only as a precursor to the binge drinking that is a common feature of all RAG Weeks.
Despite all of this though, the skies didn’t fall in over Galway last month and for the most part the city emerged unscathed by the mania that swept it for five days. Thursday night was a sight to behold as thousands of well-inebriated students queued into the early hours of the morning for what Supermac’s could offer them.
And no one seemed more delighted by this than Pat McDonagh, who said that his outlets experienced “the best of good humour, banter and craic without a single episode of misbehaviour”, adding “most cities would be delighted to be part of the student culture in the way that Galway is”.
So is Pat right? Is it not time that Galway’s ‘Unofficial RAG Week’ became a recognised affair once more? This is something that only the students can answer, through their actions rather than their words.
Whatever the case though, there is no doubt that RAG Week will still occur for many years to come.
By Stephen Corrigan