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



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



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

City boys struggle in schools soccer final



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

Coláiste na Coiribe 1

Our Lady’s Belmullet 3

Keith Kelly  in Castlebar

COLÁISTE Coláiste na Coiribe suffered Connacht final heartbreak for the third time in five years yesterday (Thursday) when they went down to the undisputed kingpins of Connacht B schools soccer, Our Lady’s Secondary of Belmullet, in the provincial final in Castlebar.

The game was moved from the GMIT campus in the town to the synthetic pitch of Castlebar Celtic due to a frozen pitch, and in truth the city side struggled to warm to the task against the reigning champions, who adapted far better to the artificial surface.

The Galway outfit did have the brighter start, pinning their opponents back on what was a very narrow pitch – there was just three yards between the sideline and the edge of the 18-yard box – but once Belmullet got their passing game going, they took the game by the scruff of the neck and never looked like relinquishing that grip,

They had just one goal to show at half-time for their dominance, but two goals in the space of three minutes early in the second half all but wrapped up the title, and while Coláiste na Coiribe worked hard to get back into the game – and pulled a goal back through Cathal O’Regan – they came up short against a well-drilled Mayo side.

Daithí Ó Máille caused the Belmullet defence plenty of problems down the right, and he came close to opening the scoring in the third minute when played in by Eric Ó Gionnain, but his first touch took him wide and the narrow angle proved his undoing.

Ó Gionnain then forced Belmullet ’keeper Jack Deane into a mistake when there looked to be little danger, but the ’keeper managed to scramble the ball out for a corner. Coláiste na Coiribe were unable to build on that impressive start, however, and Belmullet soon took control of what was at times an end-to-end game.

Daniel Lenihan and Caolann Malone had a busy day keeping the livewire Justin Healy under wraps, but the striker broke free in the 16th minute to test Ruairi Dempsey in the Coláiste na Coiribe goal, a test the ’keeper passed comfortably.

Dempsey then brilliantly denied the Mayo side the opener two minutes later when a corner from the left found Peter Caffrey unmarked, but his shot from six yards was brilliantly beaten away by Dempsey, and the Belmullet captain’s follow-up effort hit the post and went wide.

Kyle O’Reilly sent a shot wide from inside the box in the 24th minute, and Healy and Tommy Conroy linked up three minutes later down the right, but Conroy’s teasing ball across the face of goal eluded the inrushing attackers.

The Mayo side finally got the breakthrough on the half-hour mark when Eoin O’Donoghue got a head on Gary Boylan’s free-kick to direct the ball into the path of Conroy, and he fired home from inside the six yard box from what looked like an offside position.

It was no more than Belmullet deserved considering their dominance, and they as good as wrapped up the final early in the second half when scoring twice in three minutes. The impressive Boylan got both, the first a drive from just inside the box that gave Dempsey no chance in the 51st minute after Belmullet broke from a Coláiste na Coiribe corner; the second in the 54th minute when the midfielder pounced on a loose ball to drill home a shot from 20 yards out.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Archive News

Charity shops still delivering the goods in tough times



Date Published: 31-Jan-2013

Government funding for Galway Airport could be in doubt as a result of the Budget.

The Department of Transport has confirmed that funding announced last year for regional airports is under review.

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