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Cash-strapped Councils have no answers as freeze exposes sad state of our roads



Date Published: {J}

Nothing seems to focus the minds as much as the state of the roads. Over the past couple of months, it occupied mountains of television coverage both here and across Britain. We witnessed reporters in the most precarious of situations as they brought to us the woes of motorists who were either taking their lives in their hands or abandoning their vehicles.

There was days when Sky News were provided with round the clock material when certain parts of England were submerged in snow and invariably the focus of attention turned to the roads where drivers were trying, unsuccessfully in many cases, to handle the roads which were in a treacherous condition.

Even we became obsessed with the weather forecasts since the flooding of mid November to the Christmas freeze and it was mainly to learn how the roads would be for travelling to work or dropping the kids to school the following day. So much so that the likes of John Eagleton and Jean Byrne could be adopted as family members.

Throughout County Galway, motorists have gone from negotiating flooded roads to ensuring that there is enough grip on their tyres to travel on some of the most treacherous roads experienced in quite a number of years. And now they have come face to face with a whole new crisis – which is directly related to the two previous climatic experiences.

Any one traversing the roads of County Galway – and I mean from Ballymoe across to Clifden – will have come face to face with the impact the floods and the freezing had on our roads as some of them have been torn to shreds. There is hardly a mile of road which doesn’t have a pothole or the sides of it frittered away.

Over the weekend whether it was at mass, at a funeral or in the local hostelry, the topic on everybody’s lips was the deplorable condition of the roads . . . there were some people worried that they wouldn’t have anything to talk about once the big freeze came to an end but they were wrong. Very wrong.

There are stretches of road throughout the county where motorists have to travel at snail’s place because otherwise they risk doing serious damage to their cars. This is the extent in which the road surfaces have broken up since the thaw began and it will take a considerable amount of money to restore them.

There is no parish in the county which does not have its own tale of woe – in some cases the depth of the potholes are such that the clay underneath is visible – with regard to the conditions of the road and many local people are understandably waiting for the lorries full of tar and chips to wind their way in their direction and carry out a major resurfacing job.

Unfortunately it not as simple as that as, no doubt, every local councillor is trying to explain to their constituents with great regularity over the past week or so. And it is not something that Galway County Council can immediately rectify either. In fact it could be several months before the crumbling roads issue can be addressed in a meaningful manner.

The bare facts are that Galway County Council is strapped for cash for this type of emergency. Their roads and transportation budget for 2010 was slashed by almost €13 million on the previous year which was €10 million down on the year before that. Even at the current level of funding, minor roads in the county were going to suffer.

But now the county is faced with a new challenge as even the major roads – the N17, the Galway to Roscommon road, the Galway to Clifden road and the Headford road out of the city – are dangerously potholed. So dangerous in fact that County Council staff have erected bollards around some of them to stop motorists crashing into them.

For more, read page 12 of 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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