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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



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

Judy Murphy



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

BallinasloeÕs young squad aiming to floor Armagh junior champs

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

A new chapter in the history of Ballinasloe football will be written at Breffni Park, Cavan, on Sunday when Sean Riddell’s young side take on Ulster champions An Port Mor of Armagh in the All-Ireland Junior semi-final (2pm).

It’s the first competitive game outside the province of Connacht in 33 years for Galway football’s ‘sleeping giant’ with the enticing prospect of an appearance at Croke Park on February 9 on offer for the winners of what should be a competitive tie.

Ballinasloe have romped through Connacht since overcoming a couple of tricky hurdles on their way to collecting the Galway junior title, which was their target for the campaign this time last year.

With a return to Intermediate football secured, Riddell’s youngsters really have nothing to lose – while their triumphant march to county and provincial titles has revived memories of the club’s glory days when they contested three Galway senior finals in a row between 1979 and ’81.

Intriguingly, the seniors of St Grellan’s never got to play in Croke Park when they reached the All-Ireland final back in 1980 – they lost by 3-9 to 0-8 to St Finbarr’s of Cork in Tipperary Town.

This team’s progression has provided rich rewards for an abundance of hard work at underage levels in the past ten to 15 years and the current side’s ‘do or die’ attitude was very much in evidence in the cliffhanger wins over Tuam and Clifden in the domestic championship.


They are a well-balanced side who really never know when they are beaten and have an inspirational leader in county panelist Keith Kelly, whose exploits at centre back have been among the key components in their dramatic run to reach the All-Ireland series.

Riddell, who recalls playing senior football with the club during their heyday, is determined to get Ballinasloe back among the county’s leading clubs but, for the moment, he is delighted just to have a shot at getting to Croke Park in a bid to emulate Clonbur’s achievement in winning the title outright last year.

Riddell went to Newry on a ‘spying mission’ to see the Armagh champions overcome Brackaville of Tyrone by 2-9 to 0-11 in November – and was impressed by the quality of the football produced by An Port Mor in the Ulster final.

“They are a nicely balanced side who play good football,” he said. “There was a bit of the physical stuff you’d expect from two Ulster side, but I was impressed by their performance.”

An Port Mor became the first Armagh side to win the provincial junior decider. First half goals from Shane Nugent and Christopher Lennon sent them on the road to victory, before a red card for Brackaville captain Cahir McGuinness eased their progress to the All-Ireland series.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Coalition promised an ocean of reform Ð but the wind has gone out of its sails

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013


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