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An unfortunate threat to the basic level of local government



Date Published: 11-Jul-2012

They have been the source of ridicule down through the years; the public have often questioned their being; they have regularly been the subject of fun for some of the things they come up with and some would argue that they haven’t the power to break wind.

And yet if this current Government decide to do away with the many town councils across the country, it will leave several large towns without a certain level of representation that they currently enjoy . . . even if their powers are miniscule.

It is planned to abolish town councils that are former town commissioners and rationalise the more powerful urban district councils. In terms of County Galway it means that Tuam Town Council and Loughrea Town Council would be wiped off the face of the earth while Ballinasloe Town Council, which is a former UDC, would retain some of its powers.

The town councils have been regularly been accused of being nothing more than a talking shop with little power and while this may be true to some degree, they are often the first port of call for local groups who may want to enhance their estate or may have a problem with a certain development that is taking place in their area.

It is often the case that these groups or individuals do not want to take their issue to the chamber of Galway County Council where they would come face to face with councillors from other parts of the county who they feel wouldn’t have a blind bit of interest in their problems or concerns.

In Tuam, Loughrea and Ballinasloe, there are nine elected town councillors who meet every month in the presence of a Galway County Council official and their local area engineer at which they put different issues affecting their respective towns. Of course there can be a lot of nonsense spoken at these meetings but such is the case at Galway County Council meetings on occasions as well.

The elected members of Tuam and Loughrea Town Councils are paid a miniscule allowance each month which would not cover their mobile phone bills while the nine members of Ballinasloe Town Council are paid significantly more, but nothing compared to members of Galway County Council.

Having covered meetings of Tuam Town Council for almost the past 10 years, there are times one would emerge from the chamber and wonder what went on for the previous two hours but there have been occasions when they have used their limited power to good effect.

A case in point occurred last year when Galway County Council wanted to locate astroturf pitches, basketball and tennis courts on the town’s public park known as the Palace Grounds. As Tuam Town Council have control over what goes into the park, they succeeded in stopping this development in its tracks following pressure from a large gathering of local people.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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



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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