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Government must be elected Ð not picked off a wish list

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Date Published: {J}

You must always be careful what you wish for – and that’s a warning we’d do well to heed in the midst of this growing clamour for specialist experts to be appointed to run specific Government departments.

The idea is perfectly well intentioned – if you want someone to run the Department of Finance, bring in a financial expert, or if you want an individual who will take on the health portfolio, get yourself a medical expert.

The problem arises when it comes to putting names on doors – for two reasons.

First up is the long history of clientelism, croneyism and jobs for the boys when it comes to state or semi-state appointments, and we’ve paid a heavy price for that sort of political patronage in the past.

We’ve seen massive tracts of land and dilapidated buildings bought by state bodies for a multiple of their real worth, and we’ve seen plush trips to far-flung places that were utterly unnecessary – not to mention millions paid out in expenses by way of remuneration as opposed to compensation for costs incurred.

And we’ve been subjected to big Christmas parties, gold watch ceremonies and something small and gold for the wife – all paid for by the taxpayer as a little gesture to the political supporters who have been rewarded for their loyalty with a place on a state board or two.

But the bigger problem here is just who will decide who the best man or woman to run the Department of Finance or Health or Social Welfare is – and if these individuals don’t stand for election, what power have the people to influence that decision?

Take for example this regular call from the great unwashed to make Michael O’Leary the Minister for Finance – do we want Ireland Inc run by a man who would effectively shut down the public sector if he could?

Which of the many economists who grace the airwaves and the small screen would we like to see in charge? David MacWilliams who would default on the bail-out repayments? Constantin Gurdgiev and his right-wing rhetoric? Fintan O’Toole? One of the ‘experts’ from the financial institutions who brought us to this situation in the first place?

Who would be put to sort out our health crisis? Not a doctor, for a start – although James Reilly might end up there anyway, but at least he’ll have to come through the democratic process.

But we had a doctor in charge of the HSE when Brendan Drumm came in, in a blaze of glory – and how much had changed before he quietly departed the stage again?

Garret FitzGerald broke the mould by nominating Jim Dooge to the Seanad in 1981 and then making him Minister for Foreign Affairs. But Professor Dooge had previously been an elected Senator of longstanding – and anyway, Foreign Affairs isn’t the Angola that health or finance might be.

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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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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