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Opinion poll figures prove thereÕs life in the old Fianna F‡il dog yet



Date Published: 24-Oct-2012

The late great journalist Con Houlihan was once drinking with other scribblers from the Irish Press in Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street when the conversation turned to a former colleague.

This particular fellow had quit journalism some time beforehand to become a novelist, playwright and screenwriter but little had been heard from his since.

“Whatever became of yer man?” asked one of those present. “Did he go to Hollywood or what?”

Quick as a flash, talking from behind the massive crúb of his hand which he used as a mask, Houlihan replied in his high-pitched Kerry accent: “He’s in Dublin, Dublin. Forgotten but not gone.”

For a lot of the 18 months since the last general election you could have said the same of Fianna Fáil. In the early days of 2011 – as we surveyed the wreckage – you looked at its motley crew of 20 male TDs and its leader (who bore original sin) and thought something unoriginal like ‘dead men walking’.

That said, I thought, and still do, that Noel Whelan’s claim that Fianna Fáil was dead and gone was not conceivable. Every generation one of the two established parties have had set-backs – until then it was usually been Fine Gael – and people started to say stuff like it’s the end of civil war politics and finally Irish politics is going to align itself along the left and right divide.

Problem with that is that there is no party with more than one Dail seat that’s on the left wing side of the divide. Labour certainly isn’t. It has become like the Normans – níos Gaelaí na na Gaeil féin.

And as for Sinn Féin, they are left only as long as they are left out of government. Once they go in to power (and that’s not too far away) just watch how quickly that pendulum will swing!

There were a number of factors behind my own belief that Fianna Fail’s demise was not permanent in nature. The party had the biggest organisation in the country, and a loyalty that was so deep-seated it was almost cult-like.

The self-made famine engineered by right-wing laissez faire merchants like Charlie McCreevy, Mary Harney, Michael McDowell, and the two yes men, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen was a grievous act. It estranged even the most loyal and Fianna Fail lost not only its floating supporters but many of its core support too.

And so in descending order, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein all benefited with Phil Hogan’s plea to FF supporters to allow FG borrow their vote being particularly effective.

In the aftermath Fianna Fáil has concentrated on rebuilding the party, recruiting young members and candidates and pitching itself as an opposition party that is constructive, and somewhat contrite. It could not have been anything else and for the first year, it found it hard to raise its head above the parapet.

A few things have gone in the party’s favour of late. Micheal Martin has gone down relatively well as leader and people no longer associate him so closely with the ancien regime.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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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.

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