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Luck will help you up the political ladder Ð but bad timing brings you crashing down

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 05-Sep-2012

There are a raft of qualities and ingredients that are essential if you are to meet with success in the world of politics.

Generally you need to have an instinct for what the wider public wants; have strong ideas; have energy and motivation and a fire in the belly; have cleverality (be it intellectual or cunning); and have personal qualities that will impel people to vote for you (even if they don’t really like you!).

On top of that you need have infinite patience – because you will spend most of your life listening to people complaining about something or other – and have enough ruthlessness to seize an opportune moment, even if it means some other poor divil gets shafted.

But then there are factors that have nothing to do with the skill or qualities of politician. They can make or break a career, decide if you are to go on to lead a nation or go down like a lead balloon.

In two words, they are luck and timing. In one word, it is fate. Or fortune. They are the events that are wholly outside your control, the unknown unknowns that you can never plot into the career graph.

Take the case of Michael Noonan. If a pile of naive rebels hadn’t persuaded Richard Bruton to face down Enda Kenny in June 2010, Richard Bruton would be the Minister for Finance.

Michael Noonan would be a party grandee, writing the odd learned paper on financial matters, and known to posterity as a controversial Minister for Health and another of those Fine Gael leaders who never managed to become Taoiseach.

Let’s look at another scenario provided by Greece. When the banking and economic catastrophe began to unfold there in 2009, the socialist Pasok swept to power. In a sense the party was untainted by the causes of the crisis. It did, however, promise that it could fix it.

Of course, events unfolded quite differently. And so badly that the party that branded itself as the saviour in 2009 was destroyed in this year’s elections, allowing the centre-right party it ousted to step back in.

If Brian Cowen’s advisers were knowing enough, cynical enough and vulpine enough back in 2008, they would have told Brian Cowen to hold a snap election in the autumn of 2008, take a beating, and look at a new government get splattered even though none of the problems was of its making. At the subsequent election, the party could have cruised back into power.

Instead, the party’s senior ministers clung to the wreckage and also clunk to the delusional plan that somehow it would all be made right just in time for the next general elections.

At the time of the 2007 election, it didn’t look great for either Fine Gael or Labour. Both parties had put in middling performances and looked condemned to seeing out a third long fallow period in opposition.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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