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”By then, sure Michael D. might have a posh new address at the ”The Park”

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

I was telling you lately that Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny will be demanding that Galway West return an extra FG Dáil Deputy when it comes to the next General Election. He has told ‘the lads’ as much and might need that extra seat to get into government.

The speculation has been not alone on who would join sitting Dáil Deputy Padraic McCormack on the FG ticket, but whether long-serving McCormack would stand for re-election one more time if the election were to be as far away as 2012.

But the high-profile success last week by McCormack in winning the Chair of the FG Parliamentary Party (TDs, Senators and MEPs), plus the recent issuing of colour political literature by McCormack in the constituency, have made people in the Fine Gael organisation in Galway West, stop in their tracks and make no presumptions at all!


When it came to the counting last week, in the secret ballot for the FG Chair, I understand the first count gave McCormack 26 votes, outgoing Chairman Tom Hayes TD (Tipperary) 19 votes, and Joe McHugh TD (Donegal) 15 votes. When McHugh was eliminated, McCormack won by two votes . . . a not inconsiderable victory either by two of McCormacks staunchest campaigners, Michael Ring TD (Mayo) and Ulick Burke TD (Galway East), who might be regarded as ‘old style’ Fine Gael.

McCormack, who has been in the Dáil since 1989 but made his first bid to win a seat in 1981, has been keeping his own counsel on whether he intends to stand at the next election, but last week’s victory, plus his enthusiasm for the business at constituency level, show that anyone writing him off might like to think again.

All of which will be of huge interest to the others in the constituency who are eyeing-up a place on the FG election ticket in Galway West – Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames, Councillor Brian Walsh, Cllr Padraig Conneely, Cllr Sean Kyne, Cllr Hildegarde Naughton, and JJ Lee.


On the Enda Kenny visit to Galway during last June’s Local Elections campaign, during that walkabout by Kenny down Galway’s main street, Walsh went very publicly on the record as seeking a nomination.

Apart from Healy-Eames, he might be regarded as a ‘front runner’ for a nomination – though he was nominated in the 2007 General Election, but stepped down for family reasons. Kenny persuaded McCormack to stand again, though McCormack had announced weeks earlier that he was retiring.

There are certainly no indications of a McCormack retirement now – but, if he is going to lead the ticket in the next election, he will not underestimate the extent of the task confronting FG in winning two Dáil seats.

In the 2007 General Election, FG got 20% of the first preferences and they will need the best part of 10% extra if they are to secure two Dáil seats out of the five in Galway West. So, party strategists will have to pick a ticket to do just that and hope that opinion poll levels remain high for FG nationally and ‘translate’ to support levels in Galway West.


Galway West is not a constituency like others in the western seaboard where it is a direct fight between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and Kenny is a potential Mayo Taoiseach. In Galway West the political ‘market’ is very fractured – two Fianna Fáil (Eamon Ó Cuív and Frank Fahey) one Fine Gael (McCormack), one Independent (Noel Grealish– former PD), and one Labour (Michael D Higgins).

The last time Fine Gael held two seats in Galway West was way back in 1982 when John Donnellan and Fintan Coogan were both elected – and, ironically, McCormack agreed not to contest so that the FG party strategy of winning two seats might succeed. However, in that November 1982 election (the third general election in 18 months), the one to lose his Dáil seat to Fine Gael was Labour’s Higgins.

Right now, one of the intriguing pieces of speculation in Galway West is whether Higgins, who has been in the Dáil since 1987, will stand again if the election is not in the near future . . . and whether he might run for election to the Presidency when Mary McAleese finishes her term of office.

As one Fine Gaeler put it this week . . . “sure, by the next General Election, Michael D might have posh new address in ‘The Park’ if the speculation about him running is anything to go by”.

In any contest for ‘The Park,’ there are rumours of any number of high-profile possible contenders. Higgins hasn’t been ruling himself either in or out of the race and certainly would be a powerful ‘draw’ in view of present FF unpopularity in the opinion polls . . . but FF are not easily beaten and there is the possible candidature of MEP Brian Crowley, a huge vote-getter in Munster and a very formidable campaigner indeed.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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Archive News

Rory takes on fresh challenge as lauded DruidMurphy returns

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 03-Apr-2013


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Archive News

After twenty years Sarah lands dream role in Druid

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 04-Apr-2013

 Sarah Lynch has been living and breathing Druid Theatre since she wangled a job as a runner fresh out of college two decades ago at age 20. After holding down just about every role imaginable there – from company manager to director to stage manager – her appointment as general manager to one of the country’s most prestigious theatre companies last October seemed almost inevitable.

Because once she had tasted the fruit of Druid she was going nowhere . . . and going everywhere. Sarah’s tenure at Druid since 1998 has brought her on a journey that has reached just about every corner of the globe and almost all the islands off Ireland in between.

After graduating from Limerick with a degree in French and English Sarah spent a stint teaching in a secondary school. But it immediately became clear that wasn’t the road for her.

“One thing I was always certain of was I’d be involved in the performing arts, whether on stage or off stage or behind it. The immediate reaction of the audience is such a buzz,” she grins.

Her earliest memory was of her grandfather, Bud Clancy, on stage with his trumpet and dance band. “I must have been three or four because he died shortly after that. But it never left me. I got bitten by the bug. I started playing the trumpet. A friend of my grandfather taught me how to play and I was with the Limerick brass and reed orchestra known as the Boherbuoy Band, I was just a kid with all these adults.”

She learned to play other brass instruments such as the French horn and cornet before turning her hand to the guitar and song-writing. “I taught myself guitar. Sometime I tinker on the piano and I think that’s my next instrument. I love percussion. You can’t get me off a drum kit for love or money. Many is the night I’ve made a fool of myself on one of those,” she laughs.

In 2010, Sarah released her debut album, Letter to Friends, which was launched by playwright Enda Walsh, whose short play, Lynndie’s Gotta Gun, she had directed as part of the 2008 Galway Arts Festival.

The collection of songs was produced by Wayne Sheehy, a musician she had met when opening for Juliet Turner on Turner’s Burn the Black Suit tour.

“I could probably have done it ten years ago but for the manic schedule with Druid and touring so much,” she reflects. “I haven’t done much with it since. I used to play gigs in the Róisín Dubh. The bigger twin is theatre at the moment. The bigger twin bullies the other twin. You don’t get much time to do music.”

After fleeing the classroom, Sarah knocked on the door of a former college mate, Andrew Flynn, now with the Galway Youth Theatre, who kindly offered up his couch. He also managed to get her a job as a runner – the person who does everything from making tea to helping with props – on a Druid production of As You Like It.

“I remember working with Mark O’Halloran, I had great fun with him. There was Helen Norton, it was Maeliosa Stafford directing. He’s coming back to the Druid after ten years to star in Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark. He left me as a runner, now I’m general manager.”

Much of Sarah’s time behind the scenes at Druid has been spent on the road. In 2009 alone, Druid toured to Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA presenting 364 performances in 26 venues.

Indeed so much of life has been out spent living of a suitcase that she gave up her base in Galway to move back in with her family in Caherdavin, on the Galway side of Limerick city.

The tour of the Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh was so long the crew were instructed to pack two suitcases, one with summer clothes, the other winter gear, as they would be spanning the seasons. Her job now entails a lot of commuting, but driving is where she gets a lot of thinking done.

Sarah’s decision to apply for the more home-based job of general manager was one she made discreetly while on the Druid Murphy tour around the US. She had to undergo her interview in between shows at the Lincoln Center in New York. It was the most nerve wrecking experience of her life, she admits.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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