On the 16th February, Galway begins its unofficial RAG week.
RAG actually stands for “Raise and Give”, but in recent years, the meaning of RAG week has been forgotten. The week was originally organised by RAG societies in universities and colleges in both the UK and Ireland, where students ran campaigns to raise funds and awareness for different charities.
In 2011, RAG week was banned in Galway by both NUIG and GMIT student unions; they believed the week-long event had spiralled out of control and caused fear amongst local residents in Galway. Not only that, many university officials thought students were putting themselves in harm’s way.
However, this ban hasn’t worked.
Ever since 2012, Galway have held an ‘unofficial RAG week’, despite the protestations from the officials. However, the withdrawal of support, and having the word ‘official’ removed from its title has done little to weaken the RAG week tradition: Students still drink from morning ‘til night, bars and clubs are full to capacity, and of course, there are still scenes of recklessness outside Supermacs in Eyre Square.
Even RTÉ News has addressed the controversy:
Galway seems to be the only county attracting negative coverage even though RAG weeks take place throughout the country. Sligo, Dublin, Carlow and Cork (but to name a few) all participate in the tradition.
Perhaps there is less trouble or mayhem in these places which means coverage is minimal in comparison to Galway, or possibly it’s because their RAG weeks actually retain parts of the week’s original meaning. Although there are still seven days filled with drinking and partying, they also hold fundraising events, and students participate in charitable campaigns.
Galway is the only place that has an unofficial rag week, so the “Raise and Give” aspect has been forgotten about. Have they taken the wrong approach?
In DCU, students took the initiative to develop the RAG concept, and in 2011 they created the organisation RAG Ireland. The group is set up to encourage Irish students to partake in volunteering, their aim is to tackle social problems, and ultimately promote a better future. The organisation allows students to get a more hands on approach, and gives them a chance to use their own skills and incorporate their own ideas while raising money for charities.
So far it has been a massive success, and has gotten other colleges involved, including: Marino Institute of Education, St Patricks College, Matter Dei Institute, Limerick Institute of Technology, University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College, and Institute of Technology Tralee.
The media often sees RAG week as being chaotic and full of trouble, but students in DCU are trying to rectify this notion, and revive the old meaning of Raise and Give.
So maybe Galway should give an official RAG week another go, and this time try to accomplish the original goal of Raising and Giving. This would mean getting more students involved in the fundraising aspect (without removing the craic altogether). It’s obvious that trying to cancel it completely hasn’t worked, and the constant battle between students and colleges will only continue if they don’t meet half way.
Next week will tell the tale.