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Gilmore turns spotlight on Galway in a bid for seat in East home area

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Date Published: {J}

During a recent visit by the Labour leader, Eamon Gilmore to Galway, it was clear that his native county was one area where Gilmore was hoping for big performances from the likes of his sitting TD Michael D. Higgins (Galway West) and from Councillor Colm Keaveney, in Galway East.

That is probably one reason why the Labour Party annual conference has been fixed for Galway next April – with about 1,000 delegates listed to attend. Gilmore will be looking to Tuam trade union official Councillor Colm Keaveney as the most likely candidate out in that area. Keaveney was one of three elected on the first count in the Tuam area in the Local Elections, but is at the heart of one of the most keenly contested areas in Galway East.

Not alone are Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in running strongly in that northern section of Galway East centred around Tuam – with the likes of Michael Kitt TD and Paul Connaughton TD and Councillor Tom McHugh – but there is also that particular business of ‘Independent Fianna Fail,’ as I like to call it, in and around Tuam. Just a look at the top of the poll in the County Council election last June gives a flavour of the rivalry – Sean Canney (Independent) 3,273; Tom McHugh (FG) 2,845, Colm Keaveney 2,519 (Labour). All three were elected on the first count.

Tom McHugh has his own ambitions to build a Dail seat in the Tuam and north Galway area, but someone about whom there has been some speculation of late is Independent Sean Canney, a man with six years behind him in Galway County Council, an in-law of former Independent TD Paddy McHugh, and with that extraordinary 3,200 first preference vote behind him from the Local Elections.

In other words, in the Locals, Canney could call on that remarkable Paddy McHugh ("Independent Fianna Fail") protest vote and organision in the Tuam area. However, before we get carried away, let’s remember that in the Local Elections, names like FG’s Paul Connaughton TD and FF’s Michael Kitt TD, did not appear on the ballot paper!

Canney did, however, more than double his 2004 Local Elections vote and, if he stands at the next General Election, you can be sure that he will be saying that in the 2007 General Election, what happened was that a ‘Tuam seat’ (Paddy McHugh’s), went down to south Galway to Ulick Burke (FG).

He will have local ammunition in issues like the Tuam Bypass, Tuam’s awful traffic problems, the failure to give it an ambulance base and a community hospital, an IDA park empty in the town – but if the Labour vote were to be as buoyant as the opinion polls say, and Colm Keaveney could get an organisation sufficiently ‘revved-up’ in East Galway, this could be one of the great contests with names like Connaughton, Tom McHugh, Kitt, Keaveney, and, maybe, Canney stuck in the middle of it in Tuam and north Galway.

Word from Colm Keaveney is that he has never seen such anger among the electorate. He said many are living on low incomes that had been hit already and were now likely to be hit again. Keaveney said there were people sitting inside their doors afraid to answer the phone to any number they did not recognise.

The difficult task for Keaveney is to translate that anger into votes for a Labour Party which is high in the opinion polls, but which does not have the ‘machine’ in the constituencies all over the country, to turn that potential support into votes in areas such as the East Galway so dear to the heart of Eamon Gilmore. Keaveney also has to make sure the protest does not go to ‘the other Fianna Fail,’ if Sean Canney were to stand.

TENSIONS IN THE WEST

Meanwhile, in West Galway there are internal Labour tensions over the stance which City Labour Councillor Colette Connolly took in opposition to Lisbon II. And, running in the background, is the jockeying to decide who Labour might pick to run alongside sitting TD Michael D. Higgins. That inevitably also involves the eventual successor to Michael D in what has been a Labour seat for over 20 years.

The runningmate for Higgins has become one of the major issues in Galway Labour, now that Eamon Gilmore has gone on the record as saying that Higgins will, in all likelihood, have a runningmate when the election is held. That is because Labour wants to cash-in on its popularity in the opinion polls, plus the fact that it must begin to groom a successor to TD Higgins.Meanwhile, in the latest development in that schemozzle going on in Labour in Galway City, Cllr Colette Connolly was making it quite clear when I spoke to her this week, that she was not going to be ‘pushed out of the Labour Party.’ It is quite apparent that, if a move is made against her, then the party bosses, both locally and nationally, have taken on a fighter.

The word has broken that she has received a letter from the party nationally asking her to explain her opposition to Lisbon Two and the fact that she campaigned in the Referendum against Lisbon Two, when party policy was to support Lisbon Two.

In Galway, when Eamon Gilmore was questioned about Colette Connolly campaigning against Lisbon Two, he gave the rather tart answer that he would prefer to concentrate on the hundred-plus councillors who were campaigning ‘for’ Lisbon. Asked if there would be disciplinary moves, he said the party had its own internal machinery.

That machinery obviously began to move when Colette Connolly got a letter from HQ asking for an explanation, but the word I hear is that there was a pretty loud, outspoken and difficult meeting of the Labour Constituenty in Galway recently. I hear Colette Connolly ‘gave as good as she got’ when she came under fire. Locally, they appear to be pressing for an internal party investigation.

Of course, you can be sure that part of the background to this dispute also goes back to the fact that Colette Connolly supported and campaigned for her sister, Councillor Catherine Connolly, a former member of the Labour Party, who stood as an Independent in the 2007 General Election in Galway West. Catherine got 2,000 first preferences, and also held her Independent Galway City Council seat in last June’s Local Elections.

Catherine Connolly at one stage a few years ago was being considered by some as a possible successor to Michael D. Higgins, but in 2007, when she stood as an Independent against Michael D, she committed a cardinal sin. And some of the party activists will not forgive Colette Connolly for canvassing in 2007 against Labour – even if it was for her sister Catherine. Said Colette Conolly this week: "There is a history of toleration of differing views in the Labour Party and I will not be pushed, or bullied, out of the party. I don’t believe my opposition to Lisbon Two is an issue on which some sort of disciplinary action should be taken against me.

"She said people had been pointing at the ‘party pledge,’ but there was no policy on Lisbon Two when she signed the ‘party pledge.’ There must be room for diversity and dissent within the party …. it was part of its history, she said, and the close vote in areas like Shantalla and Corrib Park, showed that it was not an open and closed case on Lisbon Two among the electorate. Colette Connolly said she had not yet replied to the Labour HQ letter – but the row surely rules her right out of any consideration as a successor to Michael D. Those in the possible succession line at the moment are Councillors Derek Nolan, Tom Costello, Niall McNelis, and Billy Cameron.

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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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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