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Galwayman the driving force behind bill



Date Published: 10-Sep-2009

A new bill is currently being debated in the United States that will, if passed, legalise twelve million undocumented immigrants and a Galwayman is one of its promoters.
Billy Lawless, who emigrated twelve years ago to Chicago, where he now runs a successful restaurant business, got involved through the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform and this week he is in Galway and the West to spread message of the importance of petitioning the US Government.
“I’m here this week to tell the mammys and the daddys of those living ‘illegally’ in the US to ensure that their loved ones to get their paperwork in order and there are plenty of support groups to help do that, including a coalition of Irish immigrant groups from all the major cities around the States.”
In fact, three years ago Mr Lawless was made chairman of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform group, thanks to his voluntary work with Irish immigrants through his private bar and restaurant business.
Almost since he landed in Chicago, anyone travelling from Galway and indeed, later spreading geographically to the West and further afield, went to his bar, The Irish Oak in North Clark Street, not only to look for a job but with a number of problems.
He soon became an unofficial ‘ambassador’ of the undocumented Irish and in the past year was in a position to assist two Galway families whose sons tragically died while on J1 visas in Chicago.
His work hasn’t gone unnoticed as he was voted Irish Person of the Year last year and got the first ever Fr Flanagan Boys Town Award (an award that gives a nod to the priest whose work was honoured in the Bing Crosby film, Boys Town).
But Mr Lawless is not in town to blow his own trumpet but for a series of media interviews as part of a campaign to ensure as much support for the bill as possible – President Barack Obama is strongly in favour of having it passed as soon as possible, realistically this could be next Spring.
It was heavily defeated last time out by a strong anti-reform campaign, which is why Mr Lawless and his group have decided to come to Ireland to canvass families of the undocumented.
“No matter how much posturing or internet campaign we do, I know that often the message doesn’t get through to the very people we are targeting. That’s why we thought we would target the parents because often it is them anyway who do the paperwork for their loved ones abroad.
“But what I do want to get across too is for people not to be afraid to contact the authorities. People should keep paying their taxes if they have a tax ID number and they should contact their congressman or woman or get in touch online with either of the organisations actively working on getting this bill passed ( or”
About 70% of the undocumented are Mexicans, the rest are made up of the Irish, Poles, Africans, Asians and the rest of the world.

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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