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Presidential race as much about hindsight as vision



Date Published: {J}

How Martin McGuinness would love it if the past really was a different country – but the reality is that the self-confessed IRA man will spend the duration of this Presidential election campaign, answering infinitely more questions about what happened in the past than what might happen, if he were elected, in the future.

Ditto, David Norris, who must have searched long and hard to find legal advice that tied in with his wish to not release any more of these letters seeking mercy for his former boyfriend who had been convicted for the statutory rape of a fifteen year old boy.

We may like to shake off the darker days of our history, but life – and particularly a political one – is the sum total of all of the decisions we’ve made through our days, be it a link to brutal sectarian murder or interventions on behalf of child sex offenders.

We’ve seen Presidential campaigns in the past where candidates were vilified for far less; remember Adi Roche who was targeted on two fronts? One suggested that she wasn’t as nice as she was painted – an accusation that would rule 90 per cent of the population out of any race – and the second damned her by association, because of her brother’s unorthodox departure from the Defence Forces.

The same stick will be used to beat Mary Davis too – she will face question after question over her payments for participation on state boards, because there is very little else to attack her with, given that most of her public profile is down to her work with Special Olympians.


When the spin meisters kick into action, they can bring their dubious talents to work in a variety of ways – although you wouldn’t need a degree in the dark arts to target the weaknesses that will blight McGuinness and Norris over the next month.

The election campaign was officially one day old when Martin McGuinness was challenged by one of his Northern Ireland executive colleagues to reveal what she claims he knows about the Enniskillen bomb atrocity.

Arlene Foster, the North’s trade and industry minister, said there had been speculation for decades that it was the IRA from Derry which was involved in the 1987 bombing which killed eleven people as they gathered at the town’s cenotaph.

A day later, an even more damming piece appeared in the Irish Times alleging that McGuinness had a role in luring so-called IRA ‘informer’ Frank Hegarty back to Derry to his death in 1986 – an allegation the Sinn Féin MP vehemently denied.

McGuinness admits IRA membership but claims he left the organisation in 1974 – the only one believing that story appears to be the Deputy First Minister himself.

His history will continue to haunt him until the die is cast at the end of October – and rightly so. Because if, per chance, he were elected, that past would cast a long, dark shadow over his entire term of office.

The reality for McGuinness is that – short of announcing that he was indeed the IRA chief of staff – there is little he can about it.

If, hypothetically, he were to acknowledge a role in murders or bombings, he would be subjecting himself to the full rigours of the law. And even if the Good Friday Agreement would ensure he never served a sentence, his position – in southern politics at least – would be utterly untenable.

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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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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