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Shifting sands steer Fine Gael closer to ÔunthinkableÕ Coalition with Fianna F‡il

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Date Published: 24-Apr-2013

 The Fine Gaeler on the other end of telephone line said it was difficult, very difficult. The tone of the voice was one of deep frustration – you could visualise him throwing his hands up in a ‘what’s the point’ gesture.

The theme of the conversation was the ongoing difficulties of being in a coalition government with Labour and the headaches of agreeing on things that were called compromises in public but which this senior Fine Gael person viewed as fudges.

The conversation turned to Fianna Fáil and a few of its politicians whom this politician knew well.

“A pleasure to work with, to do business with,” he commented on them. “You know where they are coming from,” he said. “It would be much easier to be in a coalition with those fellas.”

And so it might. Coalitions are messy because what might have been sharp and focused becomes fuzzy when both sides seek a common position. Politics is always about finding the easiest way out, or the least painful possible way of taking a hard decision. That can sometimes turn out to be very messy.

The conversation threw up two interesting themes. The first was the increasing difficulties in retaining a coherent front in this Coalition. The second is the love that dare not speak its name: the possibility of a coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil after the next General Election.

If you look at the usual indicators that measure a Government’s performance, they aren’t all that bad for a Coalition reaching the midpoint of its five year term.

Figures published by the Central Statistics Office this week showed that the Government deficit last year was 7.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, a full percentage point better than the target set out for the Troika.

In addition, the Government has secured important deals that will reduce the payment burden on the promissory notes as well as the interest on the loans of €67.5 billion we received from the Troika as part of the bailout.

But you wouldn’t cop any of that from reading or listening to the headlines in the past few weeks. The collapse of the Croke Park II deal with public sector unions was a huge political setback and has thrown a dampener on the Coalition’s soon-to-be-unveiled strategy of telling voters that the worst is now over and things can only get better.

Over the last fortnight, I have had a few chats with senior Ministers on the Fine Gael side. Their message has been that December 2012 Budget was the last of the really hard ones and that the next three Budgets would have as much cheer as jeer in them. The deal on the promissory notes plus a good year last year has given the Government some wriggle room.

According to one very senior figure, that would all give scope to give something back to the hard-pressed middle-income taxpayers . . . a reward or bonus for all the sacrifices they made.

The collapse of the pay deal with the public sector unions has thrown cold water on all of that. With teachers, nurses, Gardaí and lower paid workers in a bellicose mood, the last thing they want to hear is that the Government is planning to give a reward to middle-income earners.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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

Keogh and Sinnott show their class to fire teams to victory

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Date Published: 04-Feb-2013

Ollie Keogh and Paul Sinnott have graced many a League of Ireland ground with their presence down the years. Throughout long careers with Galway United they performed at a level that most people can only aspire to and in recent times have returned to Junior football.

On Sunday, both made their mark in stunning fashion, as Keogh notched a hat-trick for Hibernians as they came from behind to see off Salthill Devon at Drom, while Sinnott cracked home two smashing goals that helped Mervue United eventually pull away from NUI Galway at Dangan.

Corrib Rangers and Athenry kept pace just behind, with impressive wins over OLBC and St Bernard’s.

NUI Galway 0

Mervue United 3

Two goals in a four minute spell by Paul Sinnott in the second-half turned an open game into a convincing win for the Premier Division leaders at Dangan on Sunday.

Mervue took an early lead when Tommy Walsh converted from the spot after Stephen Larkin was upended in the box, and for the next hour the respective goalkeepers were generally redundant as defences dominated.

Sinnott has been a regular contributor in the goal stakes from his central midfield position throughout the campaign, and he turned the game very much the way of the visitors on 69 minutes.

A free-kick from wide on the right by Eric Browne was taken down on his chest and almost in slow motion, he volleyed a cracking effort into the far top corner past a stranded Martin Mannion.

In their next attack, Sinnott killed off the Students with a strong run into the box and finished with a simple side foot effort between Mannion and his near post for a 3-0 advantage.

College offered a token late resistance, as efforts by Cian McBrien and Ger Cheevers were easily gathered by Brian O’Donoghue.

The win maintains Mervue’s three point advantage over Corrib Rangers at the top of the table.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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Archive News

Whirlwind drama on Joyce at Town Hall

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Date Published: 07-Feb-2013

The latest work from playwright and actor Donal O’Kelly will be at the Town Hall for one night only on Tuesday next, February 12.

Joyced! is a tour de force of Joycean Dublin, catapulting the audience through the year 1904, which Joyce would later make famous in Ulysses. The play looks back at 1904 through the eyes of JoJo, a stallholder in Dublin’s Rathmines Market, with a dangerous obsession for all things Joycean.

JoJo careers like a person possessed through the full gamut of 1904 as James Joyce his battles with his mad dad; wins a bronze medal win for singing in the Feis; is involved in a crazed night of gunfire in the Sandycove Tower; is rescued from Monto mayhem by the man who became Bloom; develops passion for Nora Barnacle and enjoys their fabled walk on June 16.

Joyced! is directed by Sorcha Fox and performed by Katie O’Kelly. It was one of the big Irish success stories at Edinburgh 2012, where it was nominated for Best Solo Performance Award, while Irish critics have also praised it. They include Emer O’Kelly in the Sunday Independent, who stated that Joyce’s Dublin “comes alive under Donal O’Kelly’s tumbling prose and Katie O’Kelly’s fervent performance”.

Donal O’Kelly’s record as a writer is well known, with previous success including Catalpa, Bat the Father, Rabbit the Son and The Cambria.

Joyced! comes to the Town Hall Theatre for one night only on February 12th, 8pm

Tickets cost €12/ €16 concession and booking is now open at the Town Hall Box Office, by phone at 091-569777 or on the web at www.tht.ie

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