Date Published: 10-Mar-2011
By Dara Bradley
Hopes are high that US President Barack Obama will stopover in Galway City when, as is likely, he visits Ireland this May.
An official announcement about Mr Obama’s impending trip to Ireland, which has attracted widespread speculation in recent months, is expected this St Patrick’s Day when new Taoiseach Enda Kenny visits the White House Thursday for the annual Irish reception in Washington.
Mr Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will be on a state visit to Britain from May 24-26 and they will be in France on May 26 and 27 for a G8 summit in Deauville – there is speculation he will travel to Ireland on dates either after leaving France or before arriving in Britain. Queen Elizabeth is also visiting Ireland in May and her three-day trip is expected either side of Mr Obama’s visit to London.
City Councillor Pádraig Conneely, who met the President and first lady during a St Patrick’s Day visit to the White House in 2009 when he was city mayor, said he is extremely hopeful that Mr Obama will come to Galway if a stopover in Ireland during the European tour is confirmed next week.
At the White House, Cllr Conneely formally invited Mr and Mrs Obama to come to Galway. The Fine Gael Cllr also has since had several contacts with officials from the US Embassy, including its charge d’affaires, Robert J. Faucher.
Officials from the US Embassy then visited Galway City, spoke to Cllr Conneely at City Hall and took photographs of Eyre Square and other locations in order to compile a report for the US State Department, which would ‘feed into’ any decisions on the President’s international itinerary.
“When I met him in the White House I handed him a letter inviting him to Galway and he said ‘why not, I’d love to visit Galway’. He is very aware of the visit of one of his heroes, President John F Kennedy, who came to the city on June 29, 1963.
"I think if he is coming to Ireland it will be announced on St Patrick’s Day and we are hopeful that he will retrace JFK’s steps by visiting Eyre Square,” said Cllr Conneely.
For more on this story, see the Galway City Tribune.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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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