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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



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.


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

Judy Murphy



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

Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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