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Connacht Tribune

Agony and ecstasy of a rebel heart

Judy Murphy

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Historian Conor McNamara, author of the new book on Liam Mellows. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Lifestyle – A new book by Athenry historian Conor McNamara offers fresh insights into the life of Liam Mellows, the leader of the 1916 Rising in Galway. Conor tells JUDY MURPHY how, during his research, he came across some intriguing theories about Mellows, the son and grandson of British Army sergeants whose wish since childhood had been to die for Ireland.

“If I were to use one word to describe Liam Mellows, it would be unhappy,” says historian Conor McNamara, whose new book on the Irish revolutionary is being launched this week. Conor’s book of Mellows’ writings certainly proves that his subject was obsessed with death and dying.

Liam Mellows: Soldier of the Irish Republic – Selected writings 1914-1922, covers his early involvement with the Irish Volunteers, his opposition to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and the hours before his execution in December 1922 by the Free State army.

Mellows is renowned in Galway for the part he played in the 1916 Rising locally. After it was put down, he escaped and spent several months hiding in the Sliabh Aughty mountains between Galway and Clare, before escaping to New York dressed as a nun.

In America, from 1917-1920, Mellows played a key role in raising awareness about Ireland’s struggle against England.

It was in America, in 1919, that Mellows was photographed with a young boy who has never been identified. When the Fenian leader, John Devoy wrote to Mellows asking ‘who is the child’? the brief response was ‘that’s my godson’.

That raises questions for Conor who feels it was an extremely non-informative reply from a man who had stayed in Devoy’s house in New York.

There had been rumours in Ireland that Mellows had fathered a child – if not two – and the photo of him with this unidentified boy deepens the mystery for the Athenry historian.

“Mellows was likeable but unknowable and he hadn’t many close friends,” according to Conor, who teaches history at the University of Minnesota’s Irish programme, having previously worked at NUIG as its 1916 Scholar in Residence.

That observation about Mellows being unknowable is apt, as it has also been claimed that he was gay.

The historian isn’t offering answers to any of these theories – and doesn’t debate them in the book. Rather, his exploration of Mellows’ writings aims to highlight “the personal toll the revolution took on a generation of young militants”.

Mellows’ writings were ‘the disparate public and private utterances of a young man who lived an itinerant life during a time of rapidly changing political realities’, Conor explains in his foreword.

The letters, in particular, offer an insight into this apparently fearless revolutionary, showing his many insecurities and his anguish over what he believed were his mistakes.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Council staff under pressure from worsening flooding

Enda Cunningham

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A lack of local authority outdoor staff available to deal with the huge rainfall level over the past week has led to the closure of roads around County Galway, it was claimed this week.

At a meeting of Galway County Council on Monday, a senior local authority official admitted that staff have been ‘stretched’.

Rising water tables and heavy rainfall has resulted in road closures around the county, but according to the Council, there are no houses under threat at the moment.

Iarnród Éireann has also introduced bus transfers on the Galway-Limerick line because of rising water levels at Kiltartan.

The volume of rainfall resulted in road closures, while flooding on the N83 (the old N17) between Tuam and Galway resulted in three-mile tailbacks at Two Mile Ditch – journey times were more than two hours in some cases.

Cllr Joe Byrne told the Council meeting this week that there are not enough outdoor staff on the ground to keep the water tables at a level that would not require roads to be closed.

He was supported by Cllr Jim Cuddy, who said that workers with spades and shovels were required to keep the water tables under control and there was a need to increase outdoor staff at this time of year.

The Independent councillor said that he had heard of some people being stuck in traffic for three hours as they approached the city from the Headford Road and Tuam Road directions.

However, Council Director of Services for Infrastructure, Jim Cullen, said that all of the outdoor staff vacancies had been filled.

Mr Cullen explained that the number of outdoor staff employed by the Council was dependent on the roads budget made available to the local authority on an annual basis.

Council Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell explained that their staff had been stretched over recent days in what where very difficult conditions.

“Nobody has been found wanting. It is not easy,” Mr Mitchell admitted.

(Picture shows a generator being brought to a house at Cloonacauneen this week to help pump flood waters. PHOTO: JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY)
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the flooding around the county (including photographs), see this week’s Connacht Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Council pays €3m for land for social housing in Claregalway

Declan Tierney

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Galway County Council has forked out almost €3 million – more than €400,000 per acre – for development land in Claregalway which it has earmarked for social and affordable housing.

At a local authority meeting this week, some councillors expressed disbelief at the amount paid by the Council for the 7.2 acres.

Local elected representatives expressed frustration and annoyance that they had not been made aware of the purchase until after the deal was done.

Director of Services for Housing, Michael Owens, told a meeting of the County Council on Monday that the lands had been acquired on the open market in the townland Droim na Gaoithe and this will be development for social and affordable housing. He said that a valuer had been engaged for this purpose.

An irate Cllr Jim Cuddy said that as the most local elected representative, he was not aware of the land acquisition. He said that he was not aware of when it was purchased or how much had been paid for it.

The Independent councillor said that the population increase experienced in Claregalway in recent years required the provision of a playground, while he added that there was an urgent need for additional cemetery space as there were just two plots remaining in the existing graveyard.

“It is crazy that more than €406,000 an acre was spent on land for a housing scheme [affordable housing] that doesn’t exist. The County Council would have serious questions to ask if this matter came before a Dáil Public Accounts Committee,” Cllr Cuddy said.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. Buy a digital edition of the paper here.

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Connacht Tribune

Councillor hits out at Travellers over stranded horses

Declan Tierney

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The horses stranded off the Headford Road last weekend.

A county councillor has accused members of the Traveller community of abandoning their horses to flood waters along the Headford Road – which led to a rescue operation being staged over the weekend.

It was proposed that the N84 become a ‘horse exclusion zone’ in the interest of safety and animal welfare and that there are strict land ownership requirements before horses are allowed graze there.

According to Cllr James Charity, a major voluntary effort was put in place to rescue animals that were stranded in flood waters along the main Headford Road.

“It is sickening to see the number of horses that have been abandoned and the fault lies with the Traveller community who do not want to take responsibility for this awful situation.”

The Independent councillor, along with Galway Fire and Rescue Service, Council wardens and local volunteers were involved in a major rescue operation last weekend on the Curraghline when the River Clare burst its banks in several locations.

He told fellow councillors that a meeting was organised to discuss animal welfare along the Headford Road and while the Galway Traveller Movement were invited, they failed to attend.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article and extensive coverage of flooding (including photos) around the county, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. Buy a digital edition of the paper here.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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