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Gilmore visits amid concern that ‘Michael D. seat’ is no pushover

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Date Published: {J}

There may be ‘mixed messages’ coming from the two Galway constituencies about how the Labour campaigns are going, but Eamon Gilmore will be demanding the maximum delivery from both Galway West and East when he visits the areas on Friday.

Fact is that, though we have heard of ‘the Gilmore Gale’ and its potential to boost the Labour vote, the recent slip in the opinion polls, plus some indication from Galway West that Labour is ‘no pushover’ to retain that seat held by Michael D. Higgins for 29 years, will have the Labour strategists seeking to rev-up the performance.

In Galway West, Michael D. has held that seat since 1987, though he was first elected in 1981 and subsequently lost the seat in 1982. In the 2007 General Election Higgins comfortably won the second seat in the five-seater, with the other seats going to Fianna Fail 2 (Eamon O Cuiv and Frank Fahey), Fine Gael 1 (Padraic McCormack) and Noel Grealish (Independent).

The man seeking to replace Michael D. is Labour’s City Councillor Derek Nolan, but there is a very clear message that he is having to having to look over his shoulder at the possibility of Independent Catherine Connolly (former Labour), or even the possibility that one of the Fine Gael runners (Fidelma Healy-Eames, Brian Walsh, Hildegarde Naughton or Sean Kyne), might slip-in, taking the Higgins seat in the late battle for the final two seats.

Let’s not forget that in 1982, after Michael D. Higgins had first won the seat in 1981, it was Fine Gael who took the Labour seat. You can’t rule out a Fine Gael challenge, but my impression is that the one Labour are most worried about is former Labour member Catherine Connolly. Once she was apparently being groomed as a possible successor to Michael D., but that was before there was a falling-out between them.

Connolly has been a long time around now in West Galway politics, she got 2,000 first preferences in 1987, she has been a consistent and persistent voice on areas like the health services for years, including key areas like the closure of beds in hospitals and public nursing homes, such as St. Francis Home in Galway City.

And she has an unusual ally at her disposal in that there is a link-up with Councillor Seosamh O Cuaig and the rump of what I term the old ‘Cumhacht’ vote in Connemara. It’s a link of which even some in Fianna Fail speak of with a degree of respect!

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

Call for poets to enter new competition

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust is seeking entries for a new poetry competition.

The winner will have her or his poem published and displayed on the Arts Corridor of University Hospital Galway as part of the 2013 Poems for Patience. This is a long-running series which has previously featured work by leading Irish and international poets including Seamus Heaney, Philip Schultz, Michael Longley, Vona Groarke, Jane Hirschfield and Tess Gallagher.

The winner will be invited to read her or his winning poem in April, at the launch of the Poems for Patience during the Cúirt International Festival. Prizes also include accommodation in Galway for one night during Cúirt.

Poems should be less than 30 lines long and must be the entrant’s original work. The entry fee for one poem is €10. For two or more, the entry fee is €7.50 per poem. Payment should be made by cheque or postal order to Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust. The closing date is Friday, March 1.

The judge is Kevin Higgins author of several books of poetry and Writer-in-Residence with Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust.

Entries should be posted to Margaret Flannery, Arts Director, Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust, Galway University Hospitals, University Hospital, Newcastle Road, Galway. Entrants should put their names and contact details on a separate sheet.

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Archive News

The true story of the saint that the church wanted to airbrush

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Italian saint, Francis of Assisi will get a new lease of life in Francis, the Holy Jester, a free one-man show being performed at Muscailt Arts Festival on February 5.

The play about the renowned saint, who died in 1226 was written by Italian Nobel prize-winner Dario Fo, and this performance is by Mario Pirovano, a long-time collaborator with Fo, who translated the piece into English.

It embraces papal history, biblical stories, and controversial Italian politics while exploring the life of one of the Catholic Church’s most famous saints. It also shows how the medieval Church was so afraid of Francis and his relationship with ordinary people that it set about sanitising his legacy and elevating him above the reach of his followers.

Mario, who lives near to St Francis’s home of Assisi, speaks eloquently and passionately about the saint and the way that Dario Fo has brought the Francis’s message to modern audiences in a timeless, dramatic way, while casting new light on the famous Italian Franciscan monk.

But first, he explains why this was necessary.

Francis was born at the end of the 12th century and died at the age of 46. By then, he had created great embarrassment for the Church, simply because of the way he lived his life, explains Mario. He treated people in a genuinely Christian way and wanted to tell the Gospels in people’s own language rather than in Latin.

The Church hierarchy – what an awful word, he says – decided to rewrite the story of his life and, 50 years after his death, only one official account of his life was permitted by the authorities. That was written by a fellow Franciscan, St Bonaventure, who had been ordered to destroy many of Francis’s papers and write a sanitised biography. All other books on him were deemed heretical.

The Church was afraid of him, stresses Mario, and so decided to distance him from the ordinary people, by canonising him shortly after he died. Francis was the fastest saint ever produced in the history of the Church, being canonised within three years of passing on, says Mario. That took him away from ordinary people, as they felt they couldn’t aspire to such greatness.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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