Date Published: 10-Oct-2012
I had a chance conversation at Fianna Fáil’s presidential dinner in Dublin last Saturday night with a person who knows Mayo politics inside out.
We got to talking about the constituency changes there and the very real problem it has created for Mayo – and also indeed for Galway, but not Roscommon. If you were to put a name on it, it would be: ‘The John O’Mahony Conundrum’. A bit of background first before we get to the riddle.
Every time the Constituency Commission reports – by rights, soon after the latest Census has been officially published – there are always pockets of the country where you suspect the hatchet rather than the scalpel was wielded in the attempt to get an equal spread of representatives per population.
Before the 2007 General Election, Leitrim was hacked in two, with one half fired into Sligo, the other into Roscommon. For a while it was the only county in Ireland without a TD. The south and west of County Limerick suffered the same fate being shoved into North Kerry to allow the Kingdom retain two three-seat constituencies. Before that there was also the totally unsatisfactory amalgamation of Roscommon and Longford, divided as they were by province and by the River Shannon.
As Albert Reynolds’ right-hand-man Mickey Doherty once noted about transfers in the constituency: “Votes Don’t Swim”.
This time around the Commission had an unwinnable brief. The last census showed (surprisingly) that the population had increased, but yet it had to decrease the numbers of Dáil deputies (from 166 to 158). And that meant very hard decisions – and some big losers.
There have been some big gouges into county boundaries around the Border and Donegal, with real hybrid constituencies created. But it is around here that perhaps the most far-reaching changes have been made.
In the section on its report on the three western counties of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, it states the population of the three counties is 445,000, which is equivalent to 15 seats.
Then comes the fateful paragraph: “An arrangement of constituencies based exclusively on country boundaries is not feasible. In particular, the population of Mayo can no longer form a five-seat constituency and Roscommon does not have sufficient population to stand alone as a constituency.”
And so we see the game of musical chairs start between the three counties with Mayo and Galway East both losing out, and Roscommon winning out. To reduce Mayo from a five-seat constituency to a four-seater meant moving a swathe of territory.
In the end, a total of nine electoral divisions around Ballinrobe with a total population of 10,300 – including The Neale, Cong, Shrule and Garrymore – have been moved into Galway West. Therefore Galway West stays a five-seater without having to steal any territory from Galway East. But there is no reprieve for the smaller constituency in Galway.
To retain its status as a constituency, Roscommon had to find a sizeable portion of another county to graft on to it, and sadly it was Galway East that took the hit. The constituency goes from four seats to three seats and has lost a whopping 32 electoral divisions and a population of 20,521.
It has meant that huge swathes of East and North East Galway from Ballinasloe through Ahascragh, to Glenamaddy, Creggs, Castleblakeney right up to the north of Dunmore have been lost. The Commission made the weak argument that nine electoral divisions in Galway East were once in Roscommon. But the others weren’t and while there is some contiguity along the border, the political and spiritual compass for all those places has always pointed to Galway.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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
Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013
Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup
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.