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A heartfelt appeal to supporters of a once great party

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Date Published: {J}

For you who have voted Fianna Fáil come rain or shine, this must be the most difficult election you have ever had to face. In Irish politics, loyalty is a massive factor. For many their party is up there with religion, country, family, team. It’s an identity that has been with them all their life – or longer.

But more than just identity, it’s an active relationship. There is give and take. Fianna Fáil – indeed most Irish political parties – like to cultivate the myth that they will reward your personal loyalty with personal preferential treatment. In the overwhelming majority of cases they do no more than get their secretaries to make the same call to a government department that you could have made yourself, but many prefer the personal attention of a TD. And the TD knows that people really will reward that attention with a vote, even if they are getting nothing they’re not entitled to. Indeed if a TD did break the rules to favour you over your neighbour they would be guilty of corruption. So would you.

Real corruption is rarely so direct – and rarely comes as cheap as a vote. It’s a daily fog in politics, a subtle miasma of moral compromises. Why not help out a friend who’s making their way in business or finance? Your decision will favour someone or other, so it may as well be someone you know. That’s what it’s all about in the end, isn’t it? Personal loyalty. And then when you leave government, why not accept a seat on the board of a company you may in some small way have helped become what it is today? And sure when the company has another problem, are you not going to be meeting an old colleague from the party only next week?

So through a friendly process of decent personal loyalty, we find ourselves in a situation where a lot of our representatives ended up surprisingly rich, and the interests of banking and property were put before the interests of people. And that includes those people who voted for them, for years and for generations. Loyal Fianna Fáil voters are lying on trolleys in every hospital in the country. Where we are now is where loyalty got us. Ruined, indebted, dependent, shamed.

 

I know it will be hard when you see the face you know on the ballot, but I beg of you to leave them off your vote completely. There is a real danger that so many people will feel sorry for Fianna Fáil in their defeat that they will actually do far better than expected. If they are ever going to change, that must not happen. They were a great party at one time, they did many good things for ordinary people over the years. If they are ever going to be great again – as in, being good for the people who gave them their loyalty rather than good just for the wealthy – they first need to spend time in the wilderness, thinking about what they have done.

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Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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