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

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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

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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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Archive News

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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