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Boundary revision cannot be seen as carve-up to cushion the Government

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Date Published: 31-Oct-2012

No constituency in the country, save for Dublin South, took as big a savaging in the constituency boundary changes as Galway East.

While Dublin South did lose two seats to Galway East’s one, the consequences down west were the electoral equivalent of ‘127 Hours’ – the movie based on the true story of a mountaineer who was forced to cut off his arm after getting pinned down by a boulder.

The whole eastern and north-eastern part of the constituency – some 20,000 people including the entire population of Ballinasloe – was lopped off to retain the country integrity of Roscommon. Unfortunately, in doing so, the country integrity of Galway was compromised, and very badly so.

The loss of a seat for Galway East was part of a complicated jigsaw of changes affecting the three counties of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon where Mayo and Galway East lost out, Galway West survived and Roscommon won.

In a sense it was unavoidable. The new Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan was determined to reduce the numbers of TDs by the maximum extent (correctly in my view).

With the number of Deputies being reduced by eight to 158, and with big population growths in the eastern seaboard, western counties were always going to be the losers.

It’s the biggest constituency carve-up since Jimmy Tully’s infamous Tullymander in 1973. That was designed to maximise the number of seats won by Fine Gael and Labour candidates but it backfired spectacularly. Fianna Fáil won the 1977 general election with a landslide notwithstanding Tully’s electoral engineering.

This time Hogan does not have an ulterior motive. Indeed, no matter how you look at it, most of the new five seat constituences – Kerry, Donegal, Dublin Bay North, Fingal (Dublin North), Dublin South West, and Tipperary – will all favour Fianna Fail or Sinn Fein.

Indeed, when you look at who’s vulnerable in the game of musical chairs caused by the loss of eight seats, you have to say that six, maybe seven, will be Fine Gael or Labour TDs.

And, while on paper Cork South Central dropping from five to four looks like leaving Fianna Fáil in trouble, its two TDs are party leader Micheal Martin and its rising star, finance spokesman Michael McGrath. I would be gobsmacked if the party didn’t retain both seats there.

In the next general election there will be 40 constituencies. And only eight of the 43 that are there at present have remained untouched. The knock-on effect is that the number of three-seat constituencies will be 13 instead of 17 and the number of four-seat constituencies will be 16 instead of 15.

I already discussed the consequences of electoral changes for Mayo in a column a few weeks ago. Fine Gael will lose one TD, possibly two there. It’s going to be the same in Dublin South where the loss of two seats will mean the loss of two Government deputies and possibly a third (because Shane Ross has the safest seat in the country).

Cavan/Monaghan is being reduced to four. That’s a Fine Gael loss. Similarly, in the new five seat Dublin Bay North there are five sitting Coalition TDs, three from Labour. A loss of two is likely here.

Fine Gael’s Paschal Donohoe is in the danger zone in the new three-seat Dublin Central, as middle-class Navan Road has been zapped over to Dublin West.

Fine Gael may be vulnerable in the new five-seater Tipperary, while it is independents who look the chanciest in the new five-seat Kerry.

The pattern won’t be much different for Galway East. There are three Government TDs in the constituency at present and – unless something very strange happens – one of them is going to lose out.

When you look at the new boundary, you would think that it’s Fine Gael’s Paul Connaughton and Fianna Fail’s Micheál Kitt who will struggle. Both are now living in, or the cusp, of the new Roscommon-Galway constituency.

For more, read 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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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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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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