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McDonnell ‘dynasty’ set to continue in City East Ward

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 09-Mar-2012

 IT is an incredible achievement for a city electoral area that it can produce two Government TDs in the one election, but that is exactly what happened in the old North and East Ward in the 2011 General Election.

Both Brian Walsh (Fine Gael) and Derek Nolan (Labour) were first time candidates, although they would readily admit that they had ready-made vacancies to fill – the retirement of Padraic McCormack left a vacancy for Walsh, while the decision of Michael D Higgins provided Nolan with his opportunity of a lifetime.

Nolan hadn’t even spent two years on Galway City Council before being catapulted into Dáil Éireann although it must be remembered he was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2004 Local Elections when he was the ‘last man standing’ in the race.

Of course their elevations to Leinster House created two gaps in the Galway City East electoral area, as the ward is now known. It also means that a third of the councillors in this area have been co-opted onto Galway City Council.

There are six seats up for grabs in the 2014 Local Elections. Terry O’Flaherty and her former PD colleague Declan McDonnell both

stood as Independents in 2009, with O’Flaherty topping the poll on 1,139 votes, with McDonnell closely behind in second place on


Michael Crowe holds the solitary Fianna Fáil seat having bucked the national trend by actually increasing his first preference vote in 2009 with 11.88% of the votes in 2009, compared to 10.5% in 2004, when he topped the poll.

In fact, Crowe was largely responsible for the party winning three seats on Galway City Council. It was a phenomenal achievement and particularly at a time when Fianna Fáil were getting a pasting in the local elections in virtually every county.

Veteran councillor Tom Costello holds one of the Labour seats, having scraped in on the last occasion with the final seat, and he is now joined in the Council chamber by Nuala Nolan who was an unsuccessful candidate in 2009 but was co-opted when Derek Nolan won his Dáil seat.

Menlo-based Frank Fahy was also co-opted onto Galway City Council when Walsh was successful in last year’s General Election,

and the indications at the moment are that all six councillors will be fighting to retain their seats in just over two years time.

With the current state of Fianna Fáil in the polls, they are likely to run two candidates at the most. There is no doubt that Crowe was

devastated over the fact that he polled just over 1,800 first preferences in last year’s General Election compared to his 2007 display when he received almost 5,000 votes.

In the aftermath of this performance, there was speculation that he might quit politics, but it is understood that he has got over that disappointment and not alone will he be standing in the 2014 Local Elections, but he has his eye on being on the party ticket for the next General Election in four years’ time.

Renmore-based Mary Leahy lost her FF seat in 2009 having been co-opted onto Galway City Council following the death of her father, the highly regarded Michael Leahy, who served three terms as Mayor of Galway City. While she disappeared into the political background following her defeat, there is speculation that she is anxious for another tilt at a Council seat.

During her time on the local authority she once proposed that a park be established for boy racers in Galway City rather than having them doing dangerous stunts on public roads. It never got off the ground.

Fine Gael are also likely to run two candidates with Fahy anxious to retain the seat he was co-opted onto, but it is unlikely another defeated candidate – pharmacist Barra Nevin – will contest as he was very annoyed over the fact that he was not co-opted in place of Walsh, having polled significantly better than his party colleague in 2009 with 7% of the first preference vote, compared to Fahy’s 4.5% share.

There has been some mention of Shane Forde from Mervue being on the FG ticket. Forde, who works in the Bon Secours Hospital in Renmore, is a staunch ally of Walsh and campaigned for him in last year’s General Election. It would also be a means of the Fine Gael TD retaining his core support in this electoral area.

Sinn Féin are likely to run Martin Concannon again, but he will have his work cut out trying to regain the seat that was previously

won by Daniel Callanan back in 2004 – despite SF being the second strongest party in the national polls at the moment.

There is talk of Mike Cubbard, who previously stood in the West Ward, changing locations to the east side of the city and would could a formidable candidate. He stood in last year’s General Election as an Independent but didn’t break the 1,000 vote threshold. He is heavily involved in underage soccer in the city and is in his late twenties.

There is also some suggestion that in the unlikely event of McDonnell retiring from politics, his daughter Marie McDonnell of Café Zealous on Irwin’s Lane would stand in his place.

Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will be out to make gains in this area and both parties have said that they see Labour’s Nuala Nolan’s seat as being the most vulnerable.

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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Archive News

Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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