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Crowe camp watch like hawks for any FF two-candidate plan

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Date Published: 11-Aug-2010

It certainly doesn’t tie-in with the Dail plans of Mayor of Galway Councillor Michael J. Crowe, but there is a discussion going on in Fianna Fail circles as to precisely how many candidates the party should run in West Galway in the next General Election.

There are some of the opinion that the party might opt for two runners instead of three in a strategy to ensure that it holds its present two seats.

It’s important to stress that the discussion on such a possible strategy is on an unofficial basis, but if there were only two places on the ticket there would be an almighty battle on the cards in FF – with two sitting Dail Deputies, Minister Eamon O Cuiv and Frank Fahey surely the front-runners for the nominations.

Such a strategy might leave Mayor Crowe sitting on the sidelines, despite his all-out bid for a spot on the election ticket – so you can be sure that the Crowe organisation, which involves both Mayor Michael and his brother, Councillor Ollie Crowe, will be backing a three-candidate strategy and watching this debate very carefully indeed.

That is, unless they fancied that, if they went to a candidate selection convention, they might edge-out sitting TD Frank Fahey in a vote by the delegates who would make up a West Galway FF convention. Such an eventuality might mean that Fahey might have to be added to the ticket by HQ.

I understand that the thinking behind possibly running only two candidates in the five-seater West Galway is that there is a belief in FF ranks in some places that, if the party vote were down next time as opinion polls have been predicting for nearly two years now, then the ‘ticket’ in all constituencies should be kept as ‘tight’ as possible to prevent any slippage in the vote if candidates were being eliminated.

The theory is that the two candidates would split the vote between them very evenly on the day of the election – now there’s a good trick between the O Cuiv and Fahey camps! – and they would take two FF seats, even with a reduced vote, because there would be no vote slippage as a running mate was eliminated and the votes distributed.

This idea of the minimum number of candidates in constituencies has been growing in popularity in FF in recent years. Some strategists believe that the old concept of running a big number of candidates, and can be wasteful of votes on eliminations, resulting in votes wandering away to other candidates and parties on the basis of ‘geography’ and voting for the local man or woman on later preferences.

I remember a time when it was not unusual for Fianna Fail to run up to five candidates in five-seater Galway West (Bobby Molloy, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, Frank Fahey, Mark Killilea and Gerald Bartley). But those were the days when voters held their party loyalties perhaps more strongly than they do now, and when FF voters could be relied upon to ‘go down the ballot paper’ sticking strictly to FF candidates, and ending their voting there.

That fierce loyalty has been eroded, the polls show that voters are disaffected from FF, but, in any event, in FF in recent election campaigns, the FF powers-that-be have persistently tried in all constituencies to keep candidate numbers to the minimum, and have argued that it won them seats they might otherwise not have taken.

This style of thinking is considerably furthered by the fact that the FF vote seems certain to be down at the next election …… however, like all political theories, there is an equal and opposite one! You could talk to Independent TD Noel Grealish about the time he was first elected to replace PD Bobby Molloy when Molloy retired in 2002.

Because there was no recognised successor to Molloy that time, the PDs put up Councillors Noel Grealish, Donal Lyons and Declan McDonnell. Those allegedly ‘in the know’ argued that Molloy had finally lost his marbles electorally by splitting the PD vote into three. But the canny Molloy, with nearly forty years in politics behind him, showed that he was a better strategist than the lot of them.

In the 2002 General Election, Grealish came in with 2,700 votes, Donal Lyons with 1,900 and Declan McDonnell with 1,400. The ticket was also clever in that it was geographically beautifully balanced – Grealish was from east of the city, McDonnell was in the city itself east of the Corrib, and Donal Lyons was a city candidate based west of the Corrib.

Between them, Lyons and McDonnell gave Grealish nearly 1,400 votes, though Grealish was also steadily picking up transfers himself.

By the 2007 General Election, Grealish was a very different ‘kettle of fish’ and had well over 5,000 first preferences, but he still had runningmates in Donal Lyons and Tom Welby, who, when they went out, gave Grealish a useful 800 votes ….. though some FF strategists argue that the PD transfers still did scatter hundreds of votes, and that’s what they would be afraid of if FF did not run the lowest possible number of candidates.

You can be sure that the reply of the Michael Crowe camp to this line of argument will be that they have a very efficient organisation in Galway City, that it is capable of bringing in a vote of its own outside of FF, that the Mayoralty must be worth votes to Michael Crowe, and that the Michael and Ollie Crowe-led organisation is more than capable of a disciplined campaigh which will deliver the transfers.

The Crowes would also probably argue that their family connections, the distinct city centre organisation they possess, and their links would bring in votes from outside of FF to boost the party first preference tally – votes which the FF ticket might not otherwise get.

However, they would have to show that those stray votes would stay with FF if they came to be transferred … but that’s a scenario that the Crowes would not countenance because it would mean that Michael John Crowe would have to be eliminated.

They are in this business to win – as they did in the Local Elections, and certainly would fight tooth-and-nail against being ruled out under a two-candidate strategy …. though they probably would accept it if Frank Fahey announced his retirement and Crowe were ‘the second candidate’ with O Cuiv.

There is anything but indication of Fahey sounding the death knell of his political career just yet …. so you can expect some hard campaigning in FF as to just how many should be on the ticket, and then for a nomination.

Meanwhile, one of those who will also have an interest in the selection of that ticket will be the other Galway City FF Councillor, Peter Keane, a surprise packet in the Local Elections and someone who has ambitions to ‘go further’ in this political game.

Keane came fourth in the first preferences in the West City Ward (Salthill, Knocknacarra, Claddagh) and suddenly became someone to possibly reckon with in relation to Dail politics in the future. He will know that, even though he is a first-term councillor in the city, he must stake his claim to a possible run for the Dail – even if it isn’t at the next election.

With the field already crowded by names such as Eamon O Cuiv TD, Frank Fahey TD and Mayor Michael J. Crowe, there certainly won’t be room for Keane to run, but I expect his name to feature at least in the early speculation – with a view to ‘next time’ and to letting delegates know of his interest.

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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First local bragging rights of the new season go to Mervue Utd

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Date Published: 18-Mar-2013

Mervue United 2

Salthill Devon 1

Jason Byrne at Fahy’s Field

Mervue United have earned the early bragging rights in the latest instalment of a derby clash with their old rivals Salthill Devon thanks to first half goals from Tom King and youngster Ryan Manning at Fahy’s Field on Friday night.

Old teammates were re-united on the field as the likes Jason Molloy, Tom King, Gary Curran, Paul Sinnott and new Devon signing Derek O’Brien were among the names who used to wear the maroon of dormant Galway United.

Mervue came out of the blocks strongly and Curran unleashed the first meaningful shot after six minutes which failed to trouble Ronan Forde and glanced wide.

Two minutes later, former Mervue striker Enda Curran fired Devon’s first effort from distance but steered well clear of the target.

Almost immediately at the other end, Mervue thought they had taken the lead when King was released into the box and his shot squirmed under Forde towards goal, but Devon skipper Eugene Greaney was at hand to clear off the line.

Three minutes later, an almost identical move was executed by Mervue as Brendan Lavelle played King in, who this time opted to dink over the advancing Forde for a marvellous finish to give Mervue a deserved 1-0 lead.

Mervue immediately searched for another as Manning picked out Varley, and with his cross he searched for Lavelle but William Enubele cleared just as Lavelle was about to head it.

From the resulting corner, Manning whipped it in to Varley, whose shot was well blocked by Colm Horgan.

A second goal was coming, and it arrived on 18 minutes when King played a neat exchange with Paul Sinnott and he squared for Manning, who shot first-time to bag his first League of Ireland goal.

Following this it looked as if Mervue could further stretch their lead by half-time, but Devon kept their heads up and as a result of their hard work they eventually began to find their feet.

As the interval drew closer O’Brien – who had been eventually signed by Devon just hours before the kick-off – collected a long hopeful ball from Forde and cut inside but blazed over with the goal at his mercy.

Five minutes later, Enda Curran won a loose ball and his pace proved too much for Michael McSweeney but his shot was well saved by Gleeson.

On the break Mervue pelted forward and Lavelle saw another effort blocked by the omnipresent Greaney who was a rock at the back. Lavelle collected again and squared for Manning, but this time he mishit his shot and Forde caught easily.

On the stroke of half-time the teenager had another go at bagging his second but his free-kick sailed well over into the astroturf cages at Fahy’s Field.

A crowd of almost 300 people made their way to the east side of the city to witness the encounter, and perhaps a mixture of the heavy rain in the hour before kick-off along with the racing at Cheltenham earlier in the day affected the attendance.

The second-half failed to prove as entertaining as the first as Devon kept fighting hard to claw back into the contest and prevent a third goal which would have ended their chances of getting points on the board.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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Festival whets the appetite for new food experiences

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Date Published: 21-Mar-2013

I know it’s hard to believe, but there are well-grounded, consistent reports in recent weeks that Fianna Fáil nationally has been receiving a large number of new applications for membership of the party.

When I heard it first, I thought to myself – sounds like new recruits to join the crew of the Titanic. Now, I’m beginning to wonder if they knew something that the rest of us didn’t.

For, FF showed a bounce in two recent opinion polls. And then George Lee did his walkout from Fine Gael, leaving FG and Enda Kenny to watch anxiously in the coming months as further polls come in, and the Kenny leadership comes under renewed pressure.

 

Fine Gael is still well ahead in the polls, but you write off FF at your peril. The old Fianna Fáil ‘faith’ still runs deep even among many of those who are now angry at the way the country was allowed to run on to the economic rocks under FF stewardship.

On the face of it, it sounds like FF shouldn’t be an even vaguely attractive prospect for new members . . . you can be damn sure that FF unpopularity was one of the main reasons that Galway West TD Noel Grealish (formerly of the PDs and now Independent) wouldn’t touch joining the FF Parliamentary Party with a barge pole and has been flexing his political muscle in recent months as an Independent.

That’s despite FF Ministers Eamon Ó Cuív and Noel Dempsey courting Grealish for months to join FF, with even speculation of a junior ministry ‘sweetener’ at some stage when Brian Cowen eventually carries out that long-threatened reshuffle.

Wonder if Grealish would reconsider now? For there’s no denying that in recent weeks in FF there has been a sneaking dawning feeling that, if they could just hold off the General Election until 2012, then maybe – just maybe! – at least their bedrock support might have come back by then and the massacre of FF TDs might not be quite as bloody as has been predicted for the past year.

Why, some FFrs believe they might even have enough TDs left to cosy-up to the Labour Party. That’s provided of course they can hold out to 2012 and their government partners, the Greens, don’t tear themselves apart in the meantime with their habit of washing dirty linen in public.

People like Grealish would have been hoping that some of the FF voters might go for the ‘first cousin’ in the shape of a former PD like himself – well weren’t the PDs just a family row in FF? The big test for angry or wavering FF supporters on election day in a place like Galway West would be just how many of them would vote Fine Gael? I have always been of the belief that ‘the hand would wither’ before they could give ‘the blueshirts’ a vote.

Meanwhile, in the past few weeks, the pressure has transferred to Fine Gael. They are the ones who now have to worry about any slippage in support, they have convince us that they could run the economy better . . . and against this shaky new background, they also have to worry about ‘upping their game’ in key areas like Galway West.

One of the most recent opinion polls showed the highest regional level of support for Fine Gael as being in Connacht-Ulster, which was traditionally the area which Fianna Fáil could count on as heartland. That has to be ‘the Enda Kenny factor’ coming through in constituencies close to his Mayo base, where FG had a huge 53% of the first preferences in 2007.

For more, read page 12 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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