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Sharp turn left ahead as Labour hit record popularity

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Date Published: {J}

So Labour is now the most popular party in Ireland. After decades (if not centuries) of being screwed by a wealthy elite, we’re finally thinking of voting for the party that says "We’re against people being screwed by a wealthy elite".

The historical absence of a left is usually explained by pointing to Fianna Fáil. (To be frank there isn’t a lot in Irish politics that can’t be explained by pointing to Fianna Fáil, especially if you shrug at the same time.) Despite being the party most beloved of business and property, FF’s populism means they are sometimes seen as a sort of substitute for socialists.

 Left Lite, if you will. But any actual socialism present at FF’s foundation has long been concreted over. It may have started as a revolutionary movement, but once it became established as the ‘natural party of government’ it was soon colonised by the sort of person who sees a political party as a step up from the golf club.

 

 And yet, FF was conservative with a difference. While the Tories can rule Britain with support from only a few of the most benighted poor, our electoral system means that to win a majority of seats you have to actually win a majority of the votes. Crazy idea, I know. And in a country with high levels of poverty, that meant FF had to really cultivate the have-nots – which could most visibly be done by direct government handout.

Then of course there was the religious factor. Fianna Fáil’s relationship with the Catholic Church started out warily enough under de Valera, who limited the Church to just a special position in the constitution and managerial authority over almost all education, health and welfare. Closer co-operation between the twin powers of FF and the CC was inevitable however, and so the Church accepted socialist-style things like giving money to poor people through non-religious channels, while condemning actual socialists as Godless communists in league with Russia against the Virgin Mary.

That hegemony now of course is as bankrupt as, well, the banks. FF’s reputation as the country’s most church-friendly party has gone from major asset to stupendous liability, while its rush to protect private wealth by giving away public money undermined any remaining pretence of being for the people. As a political movement, it’s a busted flush.

But the same is true of Fine Gael. Who can say what FG really stands for these days, apart from not being FF? The irony is that under recent leaders they’ve ended up being one of the better excuses to vote for them. Any time people bayed for the Taoiseach to step down he only had to say "You seriously want Enda Kenny?" and the crowd would fall silent and disperse. FG are in the throes of finding a new leader as I write, but it’s rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. They’ll just elect another deckchair.

So now, thorough a process of elimination, it’s the turn of the good old Godless communists. The only question that remains is how they will make a difference. Socialists in government are supposed to overspend, raise taxes, pile up the national debt and take over the banks. It seems they’re going to have nothing to do.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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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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