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O’Connell’s Galway Monster Meeting

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In the month of June 1843, Daniel O’Connell held one of his great “monster meetings” in Galway city, at Shantalla. In a one-off piece for The Tribune JODY MOYLAN tells the story.

The old fish women, burdened under their wicker baskets, stood out against the morning sun, watched the war steam ship HMS Cyclops sail into view, lurch suddenly and strike anchor.

Behind the women, slowly encroaching onto the dusty, poverty ridden streets of Galway was a mass of humanity; the serfs of an empire.

Her Majesty’s Ship, issued to Galway by Robert Peel’s government, was intent on posing a direct and visible threat to this multitude.

For the previous four months a great voice had been agitating for reform, shaking the blanket of the land with the might of his words. Now Galway, and the enemy in its midst, awaited the Liberator.

Daniel O’Connell, with his Repeal Association, wanted to obliterate the Union between Great Britain and Ireland, and 1843 was to be a year of constant campaigning. The Liberator, as he had become known since gaining Catholic emancipation in 1829, was said (by his son John) to have amassed over 5,000 miles while travelling the length and breadth of Ireland, attending over 30 “monster meetings” (as The Times coined them.)

The monster was anchored to Galway Bay that June morning and, like virtually all the rallies that year, there was nothing but an outbreak of peace, sobriety and festive celebration amongst the natives.

Everybody wanted to see this famous man, the Catholic chieftain and, according to the contemporary press; virtually all of county Galway did in 1843, attending O’Connell Repeal rallies in Loughrea, Tuam and Clifden.

Massive occasions in themselves, with Clifden something of a foreign country in’43 due to its geographic isolation, those three rallies were, nonetheless, superseded by the meeting at Shantalla due to its sheer scale; the Tuam Herald at the time estimated that 500,000 attended (although nationalist newspapers did tend to trump up the numbers).

The masses came from Aran and Connemara, Gorumna and Lettermore, Gort and Ennis. Counties Mayo and Roscommon too were represented.

On foot, a fleet of fishermen led a procession of trades out toward Oranmore. Decked in the garb of festivity, with sashes, rosettes and hats pinned with ribbons and ostrich feathers they led tailors, plasterers, masons, cord weavers, brogue-makers, rope makers, millwrights and slaters.

At four o’clock the horde on the road met O’Connell at Clarinbridge, a small team of horses drawing the carriage that housed the Liberator, his right-hand man Tom Steele, son Maurice and parish priest of Tullagh in Clare Fr Patrick Sheehy.

The road back to the city, to a bird in flight, might have resembled a packed vein of slowly moving ants.

The hour was approaching seven in the evening when O’Connell reached the fields of Thomas Bodkin in Shantalla. Despite the fanfare of the rally O’Connell himself was in no doubt that his speech was the only event that mattered. The military arteries of the empire and, specifically, the journalists present were the eyes and ears that most needed to be penetrated.

The newspaper reports, essentially, were the most important factor in all of these meetings. It would tell the establishment of the groundswell of support for Repeal; support that, O’Connell felt, could not be ignored.

On Sliding Rock, surrounded on a built stage by dignitaries, the clergy and the small few of his inner sanctum, the great-cloaked Liberator stepped forward.

As Michael MacDonagh put it, in his O’Connell biography; “A heart stirring roar of applause went up on [O’Connell’s] appearance on the platform, and then a stillness, almost overpowering in its intensity, fell upon the vast concourse eager to hear his burning words.”

The great orator then broke the hush.

“We are engaged in the struggle to liberate the slave from the dominion of the stranger.” The clear fields of ‘43 gave way to the sight of the Cyclops bobbing on the current – a menace getting darker with the fading light.

The Liberator’s means were peaceful, but there was always a threat in his language – a violent rhetoric. As well as castigating Peel, O’Connell (a legal heavyweight) threatened court action if one hand was laid on the innocents of Galway.

He denounced local landlords; one of whom had kicked 103 families off his land – the country was in ferment long before 1845.

He spoke also that day of universal suffrage, the right to vote by ballot, and the need to annihilate absentee landlordism.

As night fell O’Connell finally left the stage – he had to conclude the formalities – and go to a banquet. The arena was soon deserted, and the boat left the bay. The cabins and shielings of a thousand town lands were again filled with its battalions of white faced lurching peasants, many soon enough to be no more than phantoms of their own land.

The year ‘43 was to be the last great theatre of O’Connell’s life. An Ireland out of the Union was not, and was never, in the reckoning for Peel’s establishment.

The great movement ended that October when, not one war ship, but a fleet descended on Clontarf and pointed their guns at Conquer Hill. Fingers on the triggers.

O’Connell, in his judgement, pulled that monster meeting to save the lives of thousands. He was arrested a few days later – for a year of conspiracy against the Crown.

Like the fading light of Galway on that June evening, Old Ireland was dying, and it finally did, with O’Connell in 1847.

His legacy was not lost, though. Having lived the life of ten great men he had pierced the fog of fatalism that shrouded the Irish peasantry.

“He thought a democracy and it rose,” said Sean O’Faolain once. “He imagined the future and the road appeared”.

■ This article is in conjunction with a larger work – you can contact the author at jodymoylan@gmail.com

Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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