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Government needs to get back in touch

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 29-Jun-2012

 TWO events over the past week served to perfectly illustrate the disconnect between the centre of power and the people – one was the bizarre redrawing of Dáil constituencies and the other was the confrontation between turf cutters and the authorities over the EU’s habitats directive.

Polar opposites they may be, but what they shared was the fact that those who make the rules – or change them – don’t live in the same world as the rest of us.

Take the redrawing of the constituencies – and let’s stick to the impact locally. How in God’s name did it make sense to include a section of South Mayo in Galway West? This was in essence an exercise carried out by accountants or number crunchers with a glorified abacus, as opposed to people who actually know the reality on the ground.

Constituencies which transcend county boundaries have rarely worked; pity poor Leitrim which was halved and then stuck as an afterthought onto Roscommon and Sligo, when the county should have been ensured some form of representation all of its own at the national table.

Votes rarely cross county bounds; Roscommon/Westmeath was a four-seater but in effect it was two two-seaters because votes didn’t come across the Shannon. And yet these bureaucrats insist on redrawing the map just so the numbers balance from their perspective. If you wanted to cut the number of TDs, you could have looked at simply dropping one from every constituency – that would be more equitable, it would have greater impact and it would leave the current boundaries untouched.

But that’s too simplistic and wouldn’t involve a roomful of actuaries sitting for an inordinate amount of time, playing God with the logical divisions that we call county boundaries.

That disjoint is also responsible for the awful scenes on Clonmoylan bog over the last week, where ordinary people – law-abiding citizens – find themselves subjected to the full rigours of the law for continuing to do something that their fathers and forefathers did before them.

It would be easy to blame the current Government for this – and indeed the pathetic interventions of the likes of Jimmy Deenihan and Alan Shatter only underline their own ignorance of the real issue – but the reality is that we started down this path under their predecessors. It’s just that nobody seems at any stage to have shouted stop.

Equally our MEPs did little or nothing to stop this in its tracks when the EU passed this habitats directive that now means we will be fined €25,000 a day if we don’t stop cutting on these ‘protected’ bogs.

What these two debacles also share is the fact that there was no consultation with the ordinary people of Ireland – they are decisions made in ivory towers which we dare not challenge because you’d be hard-pressed to find a more subservient race on the face of the earth. But the mouse has roared in Clonmoylan and the powers that be don’t like it.

They don’t understand how cutting turf is a family tradition, a gift passed through the generations; how it’s about more than making fuel for the fire; how it’s about rural Ireland, about our ways and our culture and our right to self-governance.

There had to be one grain of sand before we had a beach – and perhaps the good farmers of south and east Galway have taken the first step on the road to regaining control of our own destiny.

We get over the boundary changes by ignoring them – or maybe in John O’Mahony ‘s case moves into Galway West, hoping those who remember days of All-Ireland glory will give him a vote – but the ban on turf cutting is a different matter.

We elect our politicians to represent the people in our national parliament and – on this issue at least – they have singularly failed. The only Dáil representative to show solidarity with the turf cutters was Luke Ming Flanagan, who might be representing some of the bog owners in the next election – but he wasn’t when he stood there on a wet night last week.

The Government must represent the will of the people, not do the bidding of our European paymasters – and if it takes an uprising on a small Galway bog to return them to their original purpose, then more than turf cutters will have a reason to be grateful to the Clonmoylan protesters.

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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



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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