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Showing an Independent spirit when you go into polling booth



Date Published: {J}

Posters are going up. Then blowing down. Then going up again. A lot of them this time for Independent candidates, which I think is great.

We should elect them, throw out all the party members, and start over with a Dáil full of people who are actually allowed to think. Be careful though – there are some out there who appear to be Independent at first, but are just printing the words ‘Fianna Fáil’ very, very small. And then there’s Noel Grealish; being the one guy left when the party’s over is not what that word ‘independent’ usually brings to mind. There are plenty more independent Independents out there, and I intend to vote for them all.

Yes, really. A couple of years back, a Fianna Fáil woman was picking a fight with me in a wine bar late one night. "But who else is there?" was her refrain. Of course she wanted me to name some other party so she could argue that they were just as bad. I wasn’t having any. My answer was "Anyone. You. Me. Some stranger off the street. Citizens selected by lottery. Anyone would be better than Fianna Fáil."

I believed that passionately then, and even more now. Fianna Fáil’s central problem is that they have been in power too much. It leads not only to corruption, but to a different way of thinking. They come to inhabit a different culture – a ruling culture. We see it now in their inability to really grasp how betrayed the country feels. The Dáil needs a good flushing.

But who do you actually vote for? The alternatives are, frankly, not terribly inspiring. Knowing who you’re against but not who you’re for is a real problem this time out for a lot of people. But it needn’t be. We are blessed in this country with one of the best voting systems in the world. Yes it does have its disadvantages (though I certainly wouldn’t blame it for all our problems) but it also has a lot of power we hardly use. One thing that makes the system great is that you can effectively vote against a party. Even if you just leave out the Fianna Fáil candidates and put the rest in random order, you’ve made it that bit harder for FF to reach a quota.

It is far better to vote for something of course, and here there’s one basic rule that everyone should know: If you give your Number One to a candidate who is going to be elected anyway, you’re virtually throwing it away. Yes, if a candidate gets more votes than the quota the surplus is distributed, but in effect that’s just a fraction of a vote. If your first candidate is eliminated however, your whole vote passes on to your next choice – and so on. Line them up expertly, and it can boost the chances of a whole series of protest or independent candidates before winding up at a safe one.

So you should never not vote for a candidate because you don’t think they have a chance. You lose nothing by trying it, and you might be very pleasantly surprised.

Get more on my blog:


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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