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Challenging days ahead for political parties in UK

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

By the time you read this all the voting will be over, but I’m willing to bet that a new UK government will still be a long way off. As it looks impossible for anyone to get an outright majority, the crucial thing will be to finish as the single biggest party.

If they’re sufficiently audacious that party could achieve a sort of ‘technical coup’, governing as a minority and simply just daring the others to bring them down. If a government loses a vote of no confidence there has to be a fresh election, and anyone seen as forcing people to trudge back to the ballot box again would likely be punished at the polls.

(Well strictly speaking there doesn’t have to be an election; in theory the Queen has the right to refuse a dissolution of parliament and ask one of the party leaders to form a new administration. But the monarch would be reluctant to be seen as a powerbroker, and any party that benefitted by it would surely be accused of everything from being undemocratic to bothering old ladies.)

It’s going to be all about such knavish tricks. To use the chess metaphor, the election is just the opening game, the part where positions are taken for the real battle. The endgame – and indeed pretty much all the middle – will be fought not at the polls but in non-smoky backrooms as parties hammer out deals. Less about popular will than personal willpower. At the moment an unstable, short-lived and basically pointless Tory minority administration actually seems the most likely outcome. Second of course is a coalition – but of whom and whom?

This really depends on the exact proportions of ingredients in the Commons cake. If neither Labour nor Tories come close, the Lib Dems look like potential partners for either side. But when you think about it, what they ask in return is a pretty tall order: Essentially, permanent power. With three major parties, an overall majority will be next to impossible under PR. And as a Labour-Tory coalition will be unthinkable for a long time to come, the Lib Dems will be transformed from the party that could never get into government to the party they can never get out.

If the seat gap is smaller, one or more of the regional parties might make up the weight. They too though will be asking a lot. Scottish and Welsh nationalists could hardly settle for anything short of a timetable for full independence; the DUP, precisely the opposite. The next PM therefore may face a choice between the dissolution of the UK and the destruction of the peace process. I think I know which would be more palatable.

But the worst-case scenario is where the gap is even smaller. There’s a weird inverse power law in politics which says that the fewer people you need, the more the bastards can squeeze out of you. If one party falls only just short there will be a huge temptation to grant three wishes to some weird independent – or even worse, one of the slightly mad English nationalist parties like UKIP. And I note in passing, there’s a chance this time out that the fascist BNP will win a seat or two.

Don’t have nightmares.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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

BallinasloeÕs young squad aiming to floor Armagh junior champs

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

A new chapter in the history of Ballinasloe football will be written at Breffni Park, Cavan, on Sunday when Sean Riddell’s young side take on Ulster champions An Port Mor of Armagh in the All-Ireland Junior semi-final (2pm).

It’s the first competitive game outside the province of Connacht in 33 years for Galway football’s ‘sleeping giant’ with the enticing prospect of an appearance at Croke Park on February 9 on offer for the winners of what should be a competitive tie.

Ballinasloe have romped through Connacht since overcoming a couple of tricky hurdles on their way to collecting the Galway junior title, which was their target for the campaign this time last year.

With a return to Intermediate football secured, Riddell’s youngsters really have nothing to lose – while their triumphant march to county and provincial titles has revived memories of the club’s glory days when they contested three Galway senior finals in a row between 1979 and ’81.

Intriguingly, the seniors of St Grellan’s never got to play in Croke Park when they reached the All-Ireland final back in 1980 – they lost by 3-9 to 0-8 to St Finbarr’s of Cork in Tipperary Town.

This team’s progression has provided rich rewards for an abundance of hard work at underage levels in the past ten to 15 years and the current side’s ‘do or die’ attitude was very much in evidence in the cliffhanger wins over Tuam and Clifden in the domestic championship.

 

They are a well-balanced side who really never know when they are beaten and have an inspirational leader in county panelist Keith Kelly, whose exploits at centre back have been among the key components in their dramatic run to reach the All-Ireland series.

Riddell, who recalls playing senior football with the club during their heyday, is determined to get Ballinasloe back among the county’s leading clubs but, for the moment, he is delighted just to have a shot at getting to Croke Park in a bid to emulate Clonbur’s achievement in winning the title outright last year.

Riddell went to Newry on a ‘spying mission’ to see the Armagh champions overcome Brackaville of Tyrone by 2-9 to 0-11 in November – and was impressed by the quality of the football produced by An Port Mor in the Ulster final.

“They are a nicely balanced side who play good football,” he said. “There was a bit of the physical stuff you’d expect from two Ulster side, but I was impressed by their performance.”

An Port Mor became the first Armagh side to win the provincial junior decider. First half goals from Shane Nugent and Christopher Lennon sent them on the road to victory, before a red card for Brackaville captain Cahir McGuinness eased their progress to the All-Ireland series.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Coalition promised an ocean of reform Ð but the wind has gone out of its sails

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

CITY ENERGY COMPANY TO CREATE 12 NEW JOBS

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