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Despite its new leader Fianna F‡il is a party in disarray



Date Published: {J}

Yes, I got my own website’s address wrong last week . . . It should of course have been – with no spaces anywhere. Come and visit. It’s just like this column except it appears every day, it’s illustrated, and I don’t get paid for it.

But here I am now in Dublin, opposite the National Leprechaun Museum. Or as some call it, the Dáil. My heart is bright, but let’s not celebrate yet. They can still damage the country right up until the moment of dissolution. Already the Government (if one can still call it that) has secured the support of Lowry and Healy-Rae on the Finance Bill. I dread to imagine what sort of backroom dealings were behind that one. Factories built in the middle of national parks . . . people actually making sandwiches out of money.

The outcome of the leadership race was fairly predictable. Micheál Martin looks like fine Fianna Fáil Taoiseach material. An innocent-seeming exterior disguising killer political instincts – I’m already thinking of him as Bertie II. But strategically, this was the poorest choice the party could have made.

The first mistake may have been to lose Cowen at all. Sure, Fianna Fáil’s elders knew that campaigning under him would have led to an electoral slaughterhouse. But that might not actually have been the worst possible outcome. Making Cowen the scapegoat for everything was the best chance FF had of recreating themselves. After the election they could have chosen a new leader and declared themselves to be a new party, one no longer the servant of bankers and developers.

Now where are they? Still going to receive the worst electoral crucifixion in their history, but under the leadership of their Bright New Hope. It will in effect be a second, fresh rejection by the public. And that will be devastating. I would not be too surprised if Micheál Martin is the last leader a united Fianna Fáil ever elects.

The second best option would have been to choose a second best leader. Save Martin for the next election, and pass the poison chalice to someone more expendable. Hanafin perhaps. First female FF leader, it would seem fresh. Cynical, yet fresh. Or Lenihan; he sustained a lot of damage as Minister for Finance and his health problems militate against him ever becoming Taoiseach anyway. The dynasty has its back-up copy in Conor. Maybe it was time to play Brian’s card.

But unfortunately for the leadership, it is easier to oust a leader than to ordain a new one. A shoo-in, as when Cowen replaced Ahern, was not possible with the party still in full headless chicken mode. Rather than take the long view, TDs ran to the one they see as the best hope for saving their seats right now. The man who significantly distanced himself from Cowen – by publicly turning on him. The party’s reputation for discipline has never looked so ill-founded.

If you’d have asked me though, the ideal choice for leader was Éamon Ó Cuív. My reasons are less political than aesthetic; it’s nice to have symmetry. If they’d elected Ó Cuív, the history of the Fianna Fáil party would have had matching bookends.

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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Archive News

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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