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Coming soon to your area – FF talent scouts

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Date Published: 11-Aug-2011

FIANNA FÁil leader Micheal Martin TD began last week in Cork the business of recruiting talent into a new rank FF is creating of ‘area representatives’ – the aim is to fire-up the organisation and get it up and active as possible after the huge General Election defeat.

And the word in FF circles in Galway is that in the near future the same process is to get underway in key areas like Loughrea and Ballinasloe, as the party works on deepening its roots in local communities, gets much more involved in local issues, and tries to interest new involvement in the ranks at local level.

The strategy is aimed at giving FF a presence on the ground with which local people can interact, to pick up on local issues so that FF becomes more ‘issue driven’ and to renew, where necessary, a jaded, ageing organisation in many areas where ‘the same old same old’ are the people attending party meetings year-in year-out.

It’s a job that might ordinarily be expected to fall to councillors, but these area reps will be appointed in electoral divisions where FF did badly in the Local Elections in 2009.

I understand that districts such as Ballinasloe, Loughrea and areas in Galway East where Fianna Fáil suffered heavy losses in the 2009 Local Elections, will be targeted – in the Loughrea and Ballinasloe districts, for instance, FF fell disastrously to one councillor in each

area.

This slew of countryside from Loughrea to Ballinasloe was once countryside where – in the case of Loughrea Electoral Area – Fianna Fáil could boast the majority of the seven Council seats in Loughrea. At one stage they had five and in Ballinasloe they had four. In 2009 the party fell to one in seven in both Ballinasloe and Loughrea.

In the Fianna Fáil heyday, the party peaked at 17 councillors out of a total Council strength of 31. Now there are 30 councillors . . . and Fianna Fáil have only seven seats in all.

Party sources stress that the ‘local reps’ concept will be in addition to the sitting councillors (Gerry Finnerty in Loughrea and Tomas Mannion in Ballinasloe).

And let’s not forget that they had a very strong runner in the General Election in Michael F Dolan, someone that many in the party point to as a name to watch for the future with his over 4,000 first preferences last February when it was not popular to have the FF brand label as your tag.

But, I understand that they are especially interested in recruiting in the towns of Ballinasloe and Loughrea.

There was no mention of Galway City, but then, the party did not fare too badly in the city in the Locals (three elected Michael Crowe, Ollie Crowe and Peter Keane).

However, FF never did particularly well in the city in General Elections and they may need to look at their performance at that level. The city area is complicated by a strong Labour presence (five councillors), strong Independents, and Fine Gael with three councillors, and there is a strong hangover from the progressive Democrat era.

For more of John Cunningham’s analysis see this week’s Tribunes

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

Macnas for shows in China and Australia

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

Community Theatre Group Macnas has a busy couple of months ahead as company members prepare for performances in China in February and Australia in March.

They will premiere Chaosmos, a newly devised piece at the Chaoyang International Spring Carnival in Beijing from February 10-15 while their Boy Explorer heads to the WOMAdelaide festival in Australia from March 7-11.

Initiated in 2002, the Chaoyang International Spring Carnival is a highly anticipated event taking place over the Chinese New Year Holiday period with an attendance of more than 400,000 visitors. This year Ireland has been awarded ‘Country of Honour’ by the Festival and with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs Macnas have been invited to showcase Irish Street Theatre and celebrate Chinese New Year in an uniquely Macnas way.

Choasmos is an exciting, ethereal performance with vivid and stunning costumes, bespoke imagery, stilting beasts, masked performers, musicians, suitcases, lotions, potions, a music box and a bag of curiosities, according to General Manager of Macnas, Sharon O’Grady.

Meanwhile, the well-travelled Boy Explorer, who began a Quest for Brilliant Ideas in Ireland last year, will continue his journey Down Under with an appearance at Peter Gabriel’s International Music and Arts Festival, WOMADelaide, in South Australia. The Boy will rub shoulders with music legend Jimmy Cliff as well as some of the world’s leading music performers and over 15,000 visitors each day.

Although he tested his sea legs on a trip to Scoil Ronáin on Inis Mór in December, this is the Boy Explorer’s first time going overseas and casting his net further afield.

It’s a very exciting time for the company, with so much new work in the offing and many requests to present at home and abroad. “This will be one of the most exciting years in the long history of the company”, says Sharon.

In the early years of Macnas, the company toured extensively at home and abroad, and most famously supported U2 on their international Zoorapa tour. However in subsequent years, there were problems in the company, largely due to the lack of a permanent Artistic Director.

 

Since city woman Noeline Kavanagh took over that role nearly five years ago, Macnas has entered a new era of creativity and its invitations to China and Australia, following successful outings to festivals in the UK in 2012, reflect that.

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London snow the perfect preparation says Gabriels camp

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Killimordaly manager Tom Monaghan agreed that the deteriorating conditions in the closing stages of his side’s All-Ireland intermediate club semi-final defeat to London champions St Gabriel’s made the outcome of the championship tie in Birr a lottery.

Highlighting it was a gloomy end to their campaign, especially given all the hard work they had put in over the winter, Monaghan – a former St Gabriel’s player himself – added: “It is disappointing. In fairness to our lads, they showed great character and they kept going at Gabriels and they never surrendered.

“Even when we went down a man in the opening minutes of the second half, we coped well with it and came back and finished out to get extra-time. I thought we might have an advantage when it went to extra-time but then we conceded the [second Gabriel’s] goal from a free in the second period of extra-time and that was it.”

Monaghan believed the unfortunate sending off of Killimordaly’s Niall Earls for a second bookable early in the second half had an adverse effect as his 14-man side had to work even harder in energy sapping conditions to remain in touch.

“When you lose a man on a day like today, and the conditions that were in it, an extra man was always going to be a huge advantage. I think you are always going to have to give a player the benefit of the doubt on a day like this because conditions didn’t lend to good hurling. Unfortunately, though, that didn’t happen,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, most Londoners may have bemoaned the Arctic temperatures that almost brought their nation’s capital – and country – to a standstill last week but, as it transpired, the St Gabriel’s camp said it proved to be the perfect training environment ahead of their All-Ireland intermediate club semi-final win over Killimordaly.

Having had to train in snow and sub-zero conditions was not conducive to good hurling but, in saying that, both Gabriel’s manager Tommy Duane and team captain Aidan Ryan believed it helped to steel the London champions for similar weather conditions – with a little thunder and lightning thrown in – during last Sunday’s epic clash.

 

Given Irish people just love to talk about the weather, it was not a surprise it would become the hot topic of discussion throughout the afternoon in Birr. “You know, we have trained in all kinds of conditions and the last couple of weeks we have been training in snow,” said captain and Craughwell native Ryan.

“There were some awful days there in Northwick Park where John Kearney from Oranmore came over and trained us. You know, those conditions were worse than what we dealt with today. So, we were ready.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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