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Kenny must ensure those stirrings among backbenchers arenÕt first sign of a mutiny

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Date Published: 17-Oct-2012

Are we witnessing this Government’s first serious mutiny, its first brush with what became almost a weekly event during the last chaotic months of the dismal Fianna Fáil and Green coalition?

The letter published in the Irish Examiner on Monday was written by eight Fine Gael TDs. It laid down a direct challenge to both Fine Gael’s coalition partners Labour and also to the party leader Enda Kenny, who has acquiesced to Labour over the Croke Park agreement to ensure other Fine Gael ‘wants’ can be pushed through.

The letter itself majored on comments by PJ Fitzpatrick the previous Thursday. Fitzpatrick is the independent chair of the body that implements the Croke Park agreement. He told the Public Accounts Committee last Thursday that neither allowances nor automatic increments for public servants were explicitly included in Croke Park.

That came as a surprise to many people as Government Ministers had spent the previous year giving the strong impression that they were expressly included.

Fitzpatrick’s disclosure gave the impetus to this group of young Fine Gael TDs to put their heads above the parapet and make public their long-held private misgivings about Croke Park. In so doing, they set themselves up as defenders of Fine Gael principles. Of course, the corollary was that Kenny wasn’t adequately defending the party’s core values.

The combination of the eight is interesting. They are all male, and most are in their 20s and 30s. All were elected for the first time in February 2011 and are – with the exception of Brendan Griffin in Kerry South – the second-, or third-, ranking TD in the constituency.

This isn’t the first time this group have come together. Earlier this year, the eight TDs were part of a group of ten who organised parallel meetings to Fine Gael’s parliamentary party apparatus.

The ten included three Galway TDs: Sean Kyne and Brian Walsh from Galway West and Paul Connaughton from Galway East. Walsh has since left the group but Kyne and Connaughton remain key members.

These new TDs came into a parliamentary party with many new Deputies like themselves. But there were also the long-term TDs already there. And those who had not received preferment to the ministerial ranks were still carrying the scars of the leadership challenge in June 2010. Very quicly new TDS found themselves in the middle of a tug-of-war between the pro-, and anti-, Enda camps.

This particular group of TDs, who socialise together in Dublin, did not see themselves being aligned to any camp and began to try to distinguish themselves as a ‘third way’ in the party. The reason for this was obvious. The party had 76 TDs. They were so far down the pecking order they did not have a hope in hell of getting promotion. If they did not show initiative, they would end up being "lobby fodder", to use Barry Andrews’ neat phrase that described the fate of the backbencher.

The group of ten organised meetings, coordinated their approach and strategy to certain issues that came up in the parliamentary party meetings, and generally began to assume the shape of a classical political awkward squad – those within a party who resist the status quo.

The group scored a few successes – highly effective critiques within the party of Croke Park’s frailties and on Phil Hogan’s poor handling of the household charge.

But before they could gather momentum, Enda Kenny’s people got wind of what they were doing. Kenny carpeted the group telling them there was no room for "five-a-sides" in Fine Gael.

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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