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FF will be looking for at least one new name to rebuild East fortunes

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Date Published: {J}

If Fianna Fail in East Galway had sent a ‘Christmas wish’ to Santa, surely it would have been for a reverse in their downward trend in the constituency where they once totally ruled the roost.

It’s an area where they have seen their share of the vote slide consistently in the last three General Elections – followed by disaster in the Local Elections last June. This is, after all, a constituency where Fianna Fail were once likely to use the term ‘heartland.’

They held three Dail seats out of four there only three General Elections ago – Noel Treacy, Michael Kitt and Joe Callanan sitting on Dail seats in a constituency where Fine Gael were admittedly always battling to take one of those three seats.

It’s a constituency where Fianna Fail were once capable of getting well over fifty per cent of the vote – but in the last three General Elections their level of support fell from 48% (1997), to 46% (2002), and 39% (in 2007). And, what will really have set the alarm bells ringing, was a fall to 25% in the Local Elections of last June (a drop of 9%). In Ballinasloe, they are down to one County Council seat out of five, a loss of one seat compared to the 2004 Locals.

In Loughrea, they are down from two seats to one seat out of seven. In Tuam, they did well to hold on to their two out of seven. All of these districts in the East Galway Dail constituency.

Now, I know Fianna Fail in national politics will point to the significant defection in East Galway from FF of Paddy McHugh in the 2002 General Election. That was after FF made a haymes of the selection convention in turning down McHugh as a possible candidate. This was despite an open plea from delegates from the floor of the convention, to add McHugh to the ticket. McHugh stood as an Independent and was elected a TD.

In 2007, Paddy McHugh lost that seat – but Fianna Fail not alone failed to really challenge to get that Dail seat back, to make matters worse from the FF point of view, the seat went to Fine Gael (Ulick Burke securing a gain), and the Fine Gael vote went up almost nine per cent – to the point where they were running at 39 per cent, level with Fianna Fail.

As I said last week, many of the potential East Galway line-up for FF in the next General Election were present on the day when the new motorway stretch between Ballinasloe and Galway was opened.

Obviously, outgoing TDs Noel Treacy and Michael Kitt, were there, but also potential Dail candidates like Councillor Michael Connolly, and Councillor Mary Hoade – both of whom had to change their council area in the Local Elections, following a revision of the electoral areas, but both of whom came through the trauma to take their council seats in the Tuam district.

Another at the motorway opening was possible newcomer to the FF ticket for the General Election, Councillor Tomas Mannion. He survived the near FF wipeout in the Ballinasloe area. Both he and Councillor Michael Connolly would be competing primarily for votes in the Ballinasloe area, where Fianna Fail have taken a hammering since Joe Callanan lost his Dail seat in 2007.

This is also the area where Fine Gael have found a hell of candidate in Ballinasloe Cardiologist, Dr. John Barton, who took nearly 5,000 first preferences on his first attempt at the Dail and was a key player in Fine Gael gaining a seat in 2007.

Even though Fianna Fail have had a strategy of nominating the minimum number of candidates in recent years, in an effort to keep their vote ‘tight’ and maximise transferring between their candidates, they will have a vacancy anyway on the list of East Galway candidates whenever the next General Election comes along, because of former TD Joe Callanan, essentially, dropping out of politics since he lost his Dail seat in 2007. Callanan was on the FF ticket in 2007 with Noel Treacy and Michael Kitt.

After 2007, there was some pressure on Joe Callanan to possibly ‘save the FF bacon’ by standing in the Local Elections in the Ballinasloe area in 2009, but my impression is that Callanan may have had enough – especially when he failed to get one of Bertie Ahern’s Taoiseach nominations to the Senate after the 2007 General Election, despite decades of Callanan family service to Fianna Fail through Joe and Johnny Callanan.

For more read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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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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