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As Scrooge reaches out a cold finger Ð has the ÒpartyÓ gone out of Fianna F‡il?

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Date Published: {J}

It was the day that any number of politicians had anticipated for decades. Indeed, many a political career had come and gone with the dream still not realised – a motorway linking Galway with Dublin, and the possibility of a (legal) two-hour journey between the two cities.

On Friday, near Ballinasloe, the weather played its part. The scene was like a Christmas Card with frost on the fields as far as the eye could see. It was the perfect setting for Noel ‘Santa’ Dempsey to come and give the politicians of all parties something to celebrate – a €700million 56 kilometre stretch of motorway from Ballinasloe to Galway, completed on budget and ahead of schedule.

But Scrooge had laid a sub-zero finger on the proceedings …… we had gathered to celebrate all right, but where was the traditional ‘nosh-up’ which has always been a major part of such occasions? There wasn’t a cup of coffee, a mince pie, a sandwich, a cocktail sausage ….. you have to ask yourself, has the ‘party’ gone out of the Fianna Fail party with all this talk of recession and cutbacks?

It’s either that, or no one had told the two Spanish companies involved in the Public Private Partnership, that there was a strong tradition in Ireland of holding a “piss-up” on such occasions.

I’ve been over 40 years going to official openings. Dammit, even the opening of a single-room extension to a national school in the bad old economic times of thirty years ago, would have meant a lash-up meal for the press and politicians, paid for by the contractors, and with the Reverend Mother acting as ‘barmaid’ for a number of hours.

Anyone who has never experienced a Reverend Mother pouring a small whiskey, hasn’t experienced true Irish hospitality.

Put it this way – if she was running a pub, it would be the most popular in the townland, though probably not the most profitable. There was even one Reverend Mother who was known to park a bottle of brandy in front of one veteran reporter, and a bottle of gin in front of another, saying to each … “that’s yours.”

So, on Friday, we shuffled about on the motorway for about an hour in a temperature of minus 4. Eventually, ‘Santa’ Dempsey arrived. Not having waited half an hour, he was in a suit …. and, one presumes, thermal underwear.

Then, we listened to, I think, it was eight speeches …. but the mind begins to drift when it’s minus 4 degrees …. and you know the way politicians talk!

At this stage, even the Gardai had taken to marching resolutely up and down the hard shoulder to keep from freezing to death. Then came the shocker …. the minister unveiled the plaque, and everyone buggered off to wherever they were going!

Is it any wonder Fianna Fail are languishing in the polls? As I say …. the “party” is gone out of them.

Luckily, we were within hailing distance of Hayden’s Hotel in Ballinasloe – the scene of many a fine FF nosh-up in the days before the Scrooge atmosphere took over, or before they began to believe what Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan say. Dammit, weren’t they telling us last week the worst was over?

Thankfully, though Ballinasloe was still going through the throes of the clean-up after the floods of a few weeks ago, it was well and truly open for business. The Pogues and Kirsty McCall and Chris Rea, were playing in the streets, the shops brightly lit-up, and Hayden’s was playing host to the frozen broken-down dignitaries who made their way to the hostelry in the hope of fending off imminent frostbite.

 

Already in the hostelry were people like FF’s Noel Treacy TD and Fine Gael Councillor Michael Mullins – both of whom will remember the days when you could go to a official opening and come away swollen four hours later.

In one corner huddled some poor scribes …. one of them confronting a cup of coffee and the free mince pie which went with it as part of a special pre-Christmas offer in Hayden’s.

For more read page 10 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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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