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All bright and shiny – Enda brings his Cabinet-in-Waiting on a national tour

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 11-Nov-2009

A hunk of the ‘alternative government’ was in Galway on Monday as FG Leader Enda Kenny and his finance team brought west their determinedly upbeat outlook – the government may well be preoccupied with NAMA, but they had chosen a message built around getting people back to work.

Their new superstar George Lee TD – and the word is that they might be looking for someone like him to adorn the ticket in Galway West in a bid to win a second seat – spelled out the state we were in all right, as did Deputy Leader Richard Bruton.

Finance Spokesman Bruton said we had blown our competitiveness in a series of ruinous years when the government felt its role was not to govern, but to appease and buy out problems. He said a real opportunity for reform in the public service had been lost.

‘Working Together’ is the theme of this FG session going around the country meeting business people and asking them about problems and solutions. In other words, while NAMA and talks on cuts in Child Allowance and public sector wages grind onwards, Fine Gael has occupied the ‘recovery ground’ – which centres on getting some of those 400,000-plus unemployed people back to work as the means of firing the recovery and getting the tax revenues back on course.

For instance, at the weekend, Enda Kenny was on RTE Radio One with Marian Finucane and very firmly stitched into the record that FG would not support one of the government’s apparent prime targets, a cut in child welfare.

He saw it as a vital source of income to many families …… perhaps some of them on the brink. Maybe he is right in thinking that the days may be gone when ‘Children’s Allowance’ was used for incidentals like buying shoes for the First Communion. It could now be bridging the new gap that has arisen in many households in paying the mortgage – because of ‘short time’ on a job, or a spouse losing a job in a family that two years ago thought they would never see a hard day again.

It could also be paying for child-minding. And it is hardly a coincidence that Minister Mary Hanafin, two days after Kenny’s radio unequivocal commitment on Child Welfare, is talking of a less ‘blunt instrument’ than Child Welfare cuts across the board, with mechanisms such as ‘banding’ among income groups, being discussed in interviews.

But, if this is a clever Fine Gael campaign to get a chunk of the ‘Alternative Cabinet’ out and around the country, and concentrate on anything but spending cuts and tax increases, there were moments on Monday when it genuinely struck a chord – like the plea from small businesses which are ‘on the floor’ because the backside has fallen out of the demand and the consumer confidence which drove the retail trade before the economy ‘fell off the cliff.’

The small shops in trouble and hurting badly aren’t the huge closures with hundreds of people laid-off and television cameras all about …. these are the quiet, desperate little closures of shops and family businesses in Galway towns. Many have less than a handful working in them.

These are the jobs that might never be replaced and are marked only by a notice in the family shop window saying bleakly ‘closing down sale,’ and a name over a door disappearing out of the history of a town’s main street.

There was palpable empathy when some of the businesses told the Galway FG conference about how they are hurting, how they are having to let people go, how they have lost out since those euro millions fled over the border in shopping trips, how rents keep on increasing, how Rates keep on increasing. Leo Varadkar TD and Kieran O’Donnell TD had a promise for them of Commercial Rates being frozen for three years …. but sooner or later the issue of financing these concessions will also come to bear.

Enda Kenny himself had examples, he said, of nine or ten business people who had come to him to say they were being ‘screwed to the wall by the banks.’

A farmers’ representative told of banks simply refusing finance for re-stocking, a move which effectively means a family farm cannot function because it is being refused working capital that was always provided. In the case of the faltering and barely surviving retail trade, the basic plea at the FG conference was for someone to come up a means of injecting enough confidence into the country for people to ‘open their purses or wallets’ and begin to spend again. These are the ones who are hoping that the Christmas trade might tide them over, but who fear a bleak New Year.

Another major theme of the session, which was attended by about 200 people, was reform in whole areas of the economy and a regaining of our competitive position. Some were bitter that ‘social partnership’ had led to unreal wages because in many cases, private industry and business just weren’t represented as deals were being struck and benchmarking was being conceded.

From the education area, we were told that there had been no investment programme in the IT sector since IT 2000, and there was palpable anger at millions spent over long years, on renting and erecting prefab classrooms.

But the mood was determinedly upbeat – perhaps most so when it came to the issue of health services, where Enda Kenny has firmly linked the party to a solution based on the Dutch health system where, he said, services were delivered and there was value for money and hospital queues didn’t exist. He said he had been in a 450-bed hospital in The Hague where queues of patients simply did not exist. Once there were more than five or six people waiting, an extra triage nurse came on and people were dealt with. It was unusual, he said, to wait more than ten minutes.

Kenny told a representative of patients that for an average of €3,500 per year per head of population, the Dutch were able to deliver a health system that worked and was efficient. We could not match it with expenditure of €5,000 per annum, but the Dutch could provide a system which worked for a population of 17millions.

He said that, under a Fine Gael government, difficulties like access for all in a reasonable time, would be guaranteed. He drew laughter from the attendance in the Menlo Park Hotel when he said that, in the hospital in The Hague, there were even public relations people who invited you to come inside and see how well the health system was operating. He would not like to think of what visitors might think of some of the things which went on in Irish hospitals.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



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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Moment of truth for Galway U21s

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 01-May-2013

 Dara Bradley

FOUR matches, four victories, one after extra-time, a Connacht title, four goals and 56 points scored, four goals and 30 points conceded, a heap of wides from their opponents, sinews strained, buckets of sweat and blood spilled.

It’s been one hell of a roller coaster campaign for the Galway U21 footballers but all that will be forgotten come 7pm on Saturday evening at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick when they cross swords with Cork for the honour of being crowned Cadbury’s All-Ireland champions.

Six weeks ago as Galway set out on their 2013 U21 journey against Sligo in Tuam, the May Bank Holiday weekend final was always the target. They took each game as it came and now it has come down to this – 60 minutes of football to decide who the best U21 team in the land is.

And while there were times along the way when Alan Flynn’s charges looked like they’d fall off the wagon, against Mayo, against Roscommon and again against Kildare, Galway showed resilience and mental strength to time and again bounce back and defy the odds. Often down, never out. It is that perseverance that will stand to Galway in the heat of battle this weekend.

Cork has won an All-Ireland at this grade more times than any other county since the competition’s inception in the 1960s. The most recent of their 11 titles was won in 2009, and they’ve claimed a three-in-a-row of Munster titles with a defeat of Tipperary last month.

Interestingly, five players – Alan Cronin, Jamie Wall, John O’Rourke, Tom Clancy and Damien Cahalene, the son of former inter-county player Niall – that are expected to start this Saturday lined out in each of the last three Munster finals, so they have experience of playing in the pressure cauldrons.

Galway aren’t as experienced. True, a couple of players already have a All-Ireland medal from 2011 – a year Galway beat Cork in the semi-final – but there are a lot of young guns in the panel. Of the squad of 33, about 19 of them are young enough to play U21 next year as well, while eight or nine of the starting 15 will be eligible next year, although you wouldn’t think it given the levelheadedness they’ve displayed throughout the past six weeks.

Galway had plenty to spare over a hapless Sligo outfit in Tuam the first day out, winning by 16 points, which didn’t flatter them, but old rivals Mayo in the following game at the same venue was a different story. After a tense and tight hour of fare, Galway took the spoils after showing immense character to dig it out by two points in a dogfight, 0-9 to 0-7.

Fighting qualities were needed again in the Connacht final in Hyde Park against Roscommon – Galway were minutes from being knocked out of the championship when a heroic comeback, three points in as many minutes from Kilkerrin/Clonberne’s Shane Walsh, rescued extra-time, a period which Galway never looked like losing.

The Tribesmen took their chances when they presented themselves, a trait that also saw them knock-out Kieran McGeeney’s highly rated and much fancied Kildare outfit in a thriller at Tullamore a fortnight ago.

The Lilywhites were wasteful, true, but that’s their problem, and Galway just had too much natural footballing class to take their chances and emerge with a deserved five points, 2-10 to 2-5 victory, despite 19 wides from the vanquished.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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GalwayÕs U-13 and U-16 sides both through to national finals

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 14-May-2013

Mike Rafferty

It proved to be a very successful weekend for Galway Schoolboy soccer as two representative sides qualified for national finals at the end of the month.

It was drama all the way in Eamonn Deacy Park on Saturday afternoon as the U-13 side drew 1-1 with the Midlands League, but came through the dreaded penalty shootout to prevail by 5-4.


Meanwhile the U-16 side had to travel to Cork, where they emerged 2-1 winners following a very impressive performance. For the second game in succession, it was the goals of the Connolly brothers that proved crucial to both team’s success.

Andrew lines out with the U-16 side and he notched both their scores in terrific away win, while younger brother Aaron was on target for the U-13 side and also converted the winning spot kick.

Mervue United captured a third consecutive Connacht Youth Cup with an impressive 4-1 win over Castlebar Celtic in Milebush on Saturday.


Galway League 1

Midlands League 1

(AET-Galway won 5-4 on pens)

A low scoring contest might indicate few chances, but one has to credit two outstanding defences whose splendid covering and marshalling of the front men was a joy to watch.

Galway’s Oisin McDonagh and Adam Rooney never put a foot wrong in central defence, while full-backs Byron Lydon and Matthew Tierney were equally efficient in defence, and getting forward with regular forays.

Further afield, they matched the visitors in terms of intensity and creativity and in the second half in particular should have pulled away from a Midlands side that won the U-12 national title last year.

The visitors certainly offered the greater attacking threat in the opening half, but found home custodian Mark Greaney in top form. Galway’s best chance fell to Joshua Quinlivan, but he pulled an effort wide of the target.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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