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Just in case – all the party machines ready for election battle in 24 hours

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Date Published: {J}

Noel Grealish dropped a bombshell letter on the desk of Government Chief Whip Pat Carey TD on Wednesday of last week. Now an Independent TD, Grealish, a former member of the Progressive Democrats, was telling Carey that the Government could no longer rely on his support in Dáil votes.

In fact, now that the PDs no longer exist, for weeks there has not been an official agreement in existence relating to either the support of Grealish, or Mary Harney. I heard Harney did her own bit of negotiating. But, for Grealish, a new urgency had been injected into the situation by the flooding situation and a linked problem of lack of funding for restoration of damaged roads in County Galway.

I understand that flooding and roads were among the key Grealish demands in that private letter to Carey, but the re-negotiation of the deal on the two PDs votes was inevitable. I understand that Grealish also believed that maybe his support was being taken as a little too much for granted.

The doubt about one additional vote would have been another headache for the Chief Whip, the man charged with ‘doing the sums’ on an ongoing basis for the Government in the Dáil. But, maybe as an additional indication of his intent, Grealish upped the pressure in the final few days of last week in the Dáil, by missing a few lesser divisions in the House. That’s a strong indicator for someone who has been a very regular voter in the Dáil.

Grealish arriving with his letter will have made it ‘that sort of week’ for a wobbly Government – talks about an unpaid 12 days from the public sector saving maybe €900 million next year; the trade unions going public on it much too soon; public opinion pouring scorn on the idea; trade union leaders squirming on radio to explain more of the package they were allegedly offering; and the Government appearing to ‘lose the bottle’ in the face of public reaction and a heading like ‘Cowen caves in to public sector unions’ in the Irish Independent.

Things were on a knife-edge, so it’s hardly surprising to know that, even before news of Grealish’s letter looking for a ‘new deal’ for his vote, all of the parties had everything in place for an election – they’re all ready to roll with an election in 24 hours. You won’t, of course, get confirmation of that from Fianna Fáil!

Take Fine Gael out in Galway East, for instance. I understand it has a venue picked for its candidate selection convention in the four-seater constituency and all that remains to do is send those texts and mobile calls to get the hundreds of delegates together and launch the campaign.

The list of potential candidates is Paul Connaughton TD, Ulick Burke TD, Councillor Tom McHugh, Dr John Barton (the four-member FG team from 2007 that took two Dáil seats), and Senator Ciaran Cannon, a former member of the Progressive Democrats who joined FG some time ago and is very much seeking a place on the ticket.

A key issue here will be the directive from FG headquarters as to how many candidates should be chosen on the night by delegates. In my opinion, if the directive is four then they will be Connaughton, Burke, McHugh and Barton.

But, could it be ‘pick three’ with one to be added by HQ? In that sort of situation would HQ be choosing between Barton and Cannon, with Barton pointing to his 4,900 first preferences last time out, and Cannon with his 3,300 in 2007 as a PD runner.

One thing is sure, Fine Gael will be going to maximise its vote in the battle – for there is a belief, that if the backside falls out of the Fianna Fáil vote, as some polls would indicate, then maybe even FF long-time incumbents like Noel Treacy and Micheál Kitt might not be safe.

Something to keep the potential runners in line, however, may be the fact that, with Fine Gael likely to head-up the next Government, Enda Kenny having all those Senate nominations as Taoiseach, and a record number of councillors to elect senators, Kenny will have real fire-power on his side.

Of course I know Kenny is proposing to abolish the Seanad, but that requires a referendum and could take quite some time . . . and, in the meantime, there will have to be a new Seanad after any election.

For more see page 12 of 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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