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O Brolchain gets a huge ÔbreakÕ Ð but faces near impossible battle for a seat

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

Green Party former Mayor of Galway Niall O Brolchain got the political break of his life this week, when he won a by-election for a seat in the Senate – with the support of TDs and Senators from Fianna Fail, The Green Party, and Independents (including former PDs Mary Harney and Noel Grealish).

Just six months ago, O Brolchain’s political dreams lay in ashes – the man once openly speculated on as a possible TD for Galway West, had lost in the most basic of political tests, failing to hold his local authority seat on Galway City Council.

That was in the June Local Elections and the vast majority thought that it would spell the end of O Brolchain’s career. With 706 first preferences in the five-seater West Ward (Claddagh, Knocknacarra, Salthill), he had just half a quota. Most importantly, he had lost his local political base – a City Council seat he held for five years.

O Brolchain became a full-time official with the Green Party in Leinster House – but his days as a possible Dail contender seemed over. After all, he had polled over 3,000 first preferences in the General Election of 2007, and 2,200 in the 2002 General Election. In 2007 he had been mentioned as a possible contender for one of the final Dail seats in the TG4 opinion poll done in Galway West in the weeks before the election.

His hopes of a Dail career were smashed. But fate sometimes takes a hand – the Green Party wanted to renegotiate the Programme for Government with Fianna Fail a few weeks ago. They were driving a hard bargain that included a reversal of policy on teaching jobs – with 500 teachers to be appointed under their demands.

Part of the package was that they also wanted one of the vacant Senatorships in the by-election in which voting was confined to TDs and Senators.

The word is that any number of people in The Green Party wanted that nomination and that O Brolchain had to work very hard indeed internally in the party to ‘get the nod.’ It was largely due to the ordinary rank-and-file that he did get the nomination. His actual election was assured with FF, Green and Independent support and O Brolchain took the Labour seat left vacant by the election of Senator Alan Kelly as an MEP.

But now the question is whether O Brolchain can turn this ‘break’ into something more than a relatively short term in the Senate (who knows how short?), and free car parking for life in the grounds of Leinster House? It is an almost impossible battle.

He maintains that, though the Green Party did dismally at the Local Elections nationally that, locally, in Galway West, the branch structures are still healthy, though I still maintain his best chance may only come when Labour’s Michael D. Higgins TD eventually retires.

“Of course, I will try to build it up to a Dail seat. That is why I stood at two General Elections. Of course it’s not going to be easy, but that is what I intend to try to do,” said O Brolchain.

Of course, in the over-heated atmosphere of Galway West where Fianna Fail hold two Dail seats (Eamon O Cuiv and Frank Fahey), Fine Gael one (Padraic McCormack), Labour one (Michael D. Higgins, and there is one Independent Noel Grealish (former PD), the Senate win for O Brolchain will not go down too well.

One of those pushing hardest for a Dail seat is Fianna Fail’s Councillor Michael John Crowe, who knows that at a time when FF are unpopular, his task will be all the more difficult. Speculation still continues that the seat that must be his target is that of Frank Fahey – but Fahey is a long time on the road in this game and personalising the battle must surely make the Fahey camp followers even more determined and aware of the Crowe threat.

Given that Councillor Michael John Crowe got just under 5,000 votes in the General Election in 2007 and got over 1,000 first preferences in retaining his Galway City Council seat in the June Local Elections, the thought of someone like O Brolchain, who lost his City Council seat, getting a seat in the Senate has gone down like a lead balloon in the Crowe camp.

Michael John’s brother, Councillor Ollie Crowe, went on the attack a few weeks ago when I first broke the story about O Brolchain going into the Senate. Yes, it is ‘undemocratic’ …… but I wonder if Bertie Ahern had given one of his ‘Taoiseach’s Eleven” Senate seats to Michael John Crowe, would that have been undemocratic too? However, it would be fair to point out that Michael John Crowe would have deserved one of ‘Bertie’s Eleven’ than some of the nominees …. for instance, Eoghan Harris.

The Crowes will know that sometimes the rules in politics work like that. If Fianna Fail hadn’t been wishing to appease The Greens in the regnegotiation of the programme for government and the Senate seat had been in the gift of FF, would it have been undemocratic if the vacancy was given to Michael John Crowe?

Is it undemocratic that Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the former PDs (now Independents) have formed an alliance in Galway City to share out the City Mayoralty between them – and completely shut out the five Labour City Councillors who between them got one third of the seats in the city chamber and were the single biggest winners in the Local Elections in Galway City?

For more read page 14 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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Ruby ready to rock again and Bob is worth a big flutter in Gold Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 06-Mar-2013

New edge to Galway hurling championship title pursuit

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A battle of talent and the ability to pull in public votes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 11-Mar-2013

Here is a question. And there is no holiday or grand prize for getting the answer. But can anyone name the people who have won The Voice of Ireland and what has become of them?

Over across the water in the UK they have The X Factor and while I hate the concept of it, it has produced a few stars even though they don’t last long in the whole scheme of things.

But The Voice of Ireland seems to generate false excitement with the winner ending up become more anonymous than they already were. And it is costing families a fortune in the process.

While the programme is a ratings winner, strangely, it has resulted in those getting through to the final stages investing huge amounts of money in the hope that they will receive enough votes to get through to the next stages.

So, suddenly, it is not about the voice or the talent involved, it is all about votes and who the participants can convince to pledge their support for them. So it is obvious that talent goes out the window.

It means that someone with half a talent could realistically win the whole thing if they generated enough support behind them. From now on, the judges will be taken out of the equation and it will be left to the public to generate income for some phone operator.

Those who get through to the live performances have to engage in a massive publicity campaign in an effort to win votes which makes this whole effort a pure sham. It is no longer about their ability and just an effort to win appeal.

While the initial process does involve some vetting of the acts, now it becomes a general election type exercise in which the most popular will win the competition and the judges will have no say whatsoever.

It is a bit like the recent Eurosong in which the judging panel across the country voted for their favourite song, which incidentally was the best of a very bad lot, but then this was overturned by the public who chose a relatively crap song to represent us.

But again, this was all down to convincing the public about who to vote for rather than having any bearing on the quality on offer. There are times that genuine talent becomes overlooked because of the need to extract money from the voting public.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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