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Let’s have by-elections now – and a General Election if we need it

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 02-Jun-2010

The brass neck of this government to continue to deny full Dail representation to voters in three different constituencies is truly breathtaking. It was always unlikely that they’d be stirred into action by opposition efforts to force their hand, but their arrogance reached new heights during last week’s Fine Gael motion that would compel all future governments to hold a by-election within six months of a vacancy arising.

John Gormley’s contention that this didn’t take into account unforeseen events or emergencies such as swine flu or foot and mouth disease was perhaps his most cynical offering since his elevation into government – and that’s saying something.

There is an argument of course that we shouldn’t have anywhere near 166 Deputies in the first place but until such time as electoral reform stretches to a culling of TDs, the seats that are there should be filled. Thankfully this current democratic deficit doesn’t affect either of the Galway constituencies, but the people of Donegal South West, Waterford and Dublin South are being denied their right to a replacement TD because the government knows they have no chance of winning any of the three seats.

That’s not just because of the current economic climate; a sitting government hasn’t won a by-election since Noel Treacy was elected in Galway East to replace the late Johnny Callanan in July 1982. And Deputy Treacy’s place is the record books isn’t likely to be usurped any time soon. The TÁnaiste Mary Coughlan said the by-election in Donegal would be called in due course but the government is currently focusing energies on tackling economic issues. The Taoiseach was less diplomatic when he told RTE’s Sean O’Rourke not to even worry about it.

Both interventions smack of desperation, particularly when one of their own backbenchers Peter Power told last week’s Dail debate on the matter that he believed voters should not be deprived of their Dail representation in this way. Of course Fine Gael’s urgings for speedy by-elections are in marked contrast to their own efforts at electoral reform when they had their own hands on the tiller in the past, but that doesn’t undermine the validity of their argument now.

If the by-elections turn out to be three regional confidence votes on the current government, so be it – the essence of democracy is the right of the people to have their say. Equally there is no guarantee that the seats will automatically go to either of the two main opposition parties; the people of Dublin South, for example, might be a little more circumspect if they were presented with another celebrity broadcaster masquerading as a politician next time out.

That said, any scenario is almost certain to reduce the government’s majority in the house – and that has obvious repercussions as further cuts are brought to the table. We saw the ridiculous decision last year, in the midst of the biggest economic crisis ever experienced by the state, with existing hospital wards closing up and down the country, Independent TD Jackie Healy Rae was able to extract a commitment from government to the development of a 40-bed Community hospital in Kenmare.

No disrespect to the good people of Kerry, but surely the maintenance of existing facilities should be more of a priority than a promise of a new hospital in return for a Dail vote.

That’s the sort of parish pump politics the government will have to resort to more than ever as their majority is whittled away – and that’s why they want to avoid cutting their majority by anything up to three seats on foot of these by-elections. The classic ‘kick to touch’ in such circumstances is the establishment of a working committee – and lo and behold up steps John Gormley with a proposal for another electoral commission ‘to deal with referendums and all elections’.

Not surprisingly he described this as a major task – by which he probably means time consuming, so that in the end they’d be hardpressed to reach a consensus before the end of the current Dail anyway. The world won’t stop revolving because we’re three TDs down out of 166, but it is a slap in the face for democracy and an insult to the electorate of three constituencies. The government has filibustered and blustered long enough on this already – let’s have the by-elections and, if the figures don’t add up for government after that, then let’s have a General Election for good measure.


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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Moment of truth for Galway U21s

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 01-May-2013

 Dara Bradley

FOUR matches, four victories, one after extra-time, a Connacht title, four goals and 56 points scored, four goals and 30 points conceded, a heap of wides from their opponents, sinews strained, buckets of sweat and blood spilled.

It’s been one hell of a roller coaster campaign for the Galway U21 footballers but all that will be forgotten come 7pm on Saturday evening at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick when they cross swords with Cork for the honour of being crowned Cadbury’s All-Ireland champions.

Six weeks ago as Galway set out on their 2013 U21 journey against Sligo in Tuam, the May Bank Holiday weekend final was always the target. They took each game as it came and now it has come down to this – 60 minutes of football to decide who the best U21 team in the land is.

And while there were times along the way when Alan Flynn’s charges looked like they’d fall off the wagon, against Mayo, against Roscommon and again against Kildare, Galway showed resilience and mental strength to time and again bounce back and defy the odds. Often down, never out. It is that perseverance that will stand to Galway in the heat of battle this weekend.

Cork has won an All-Ireland at this grade more times than any other county since the competition’s inception in the 1960s. The most recent of their 11 titles was won in 2009, and they’ve claimed a three-in-a-row of Munster titles with a defeat of Tipperary last month.

Interestingly, five players – Alan Cronin, Jamie Wall, John O’Rourke, Tom Clancy and Damien Cahalene, the son of former inter-county player Niall – that are expected to start this Saturday lined out in each of the last three Munster finals, so they have experience of playing in the pressure cauldrons.

Galway aren’t as experienced. True, a couple of players already have a All-Ireland medal from 2011 – a year Galway beat Cork in the semi-final – but there are a lot of young guns in the panel. Of the squad of 33, about 19 of them are young enough to play U21 next year as well, while eight or nine of the starting 15 will be eligible next year, although you wouldn’t think it given the levelheadedness they’ve displayed throughout the past six weeks.

Galway had plenty to spare over a hapless Sligo outfit in Tuam the first day out, winning by 16 points, which didn’t flatter them, but old rivals Mayo in the following game at the same venue was a different story. After a tense and tight hour of fare, Galway took the spoils after showing immense character to dig it out by two points in a dogfight, 0-9 to 0-7.

Fighting qualities were needed again in the Connacht final in Hyde Park against Roscommon – Galway were minutes from being knocked out of the championship when a heroic comeback, three points in as many minutes from Kilkerrin/Clonberne’s Shane Walsh, rescued extra-time, a period which Galway never looked like losing.

The Tribesmen took their chances when they presented themselves, a trait that also saw them knock-out Kieran McGeeney’s highly rated and much fancied Kildare outfit in a thriller at Tullamore a fortnight ago.

The Lilywhites were wasteful, true, but that’s their problem, and Galway just had too much natural footballing class to take their chances and emerge with a deserved five points, 2-10 to 2-5 victory, despite 19 wides from the vanquished.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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GalwayÕs U-13 and U-16 sides both through to national finals

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 14-May-2013

Mike Rafferty

It proved to be a very successful weekend for Galway Schoolboy soccer as two representative sides qualified for national finals at the end of the month.

It was drama all the way in Eamonn Deacy Park on Saturday afternoon as the U-13 side drew 1-1 with the Midlands League, but came through the dreaded penalty shootout to prevail by 5-4.


Meanwhile the U-16 side had to travel to Cork, where they emerged 2-1 winners following a very impressive performance. For the second game in succession, it was the goals of the Connolly brothers that proved crucial to both team’s success.

Andrew lines out with the U-16 side and he notched both their scores in terrific away win, while younger brother Aaron was on target for the U-13 side and also converted the winning spot kick.

Mervue United captured a third consecutive Connacht Youth Cup with an impressive 4-1 win over Castlebar Celtic in Milebush on Saturday.


Galway League 1

Midlands League 1

(AET-Galway won 5-4 on pens)

A low scoring contest might indicate few chances, but one has to credit two outstanding defences whose splendid covering and marshalling of the front men was a joy to watch.

Galway’s Oisin McDonagh and Adam Rooney never put a foot wrong in central defence, while full-backs Byron Lydon and Matthew Tierney were equally efficient in defence, and getting forward with regular forays.

Further afield, they matched the visitors in terms of intensity and creativity and in the second half in particular should have pulled away from a Midlands side that won the U-12 national title last year.

The visitors certainly offered the greater attacking threat in the opening half, but found home custodian Mark Greaney in top form. Galway’s best chance fell to Joshua Quinlivan, but he pulled an effort wide of the target.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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