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Opinion

Sombre lesson of the Somme still lives on

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Battle of the Somme, July 1, 1916 to November 18, 1916: 141 days of the greatest slaughter that the world has ever known on the fields of Southern Belgium and Northern France.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

The older we get the more we tend to reflect back on our younger days and I remember through the 1960s many references being made at the kitchen table to elderly men still living in the area who had served in the first world war.

They were spoken of almost in hushed tones, as if they had done something wrong or as if there was some terrible blob on their character, but it’s only with the passing of time, that the realisation dawned of what those unfortunate souls went through.

History was really at its cruellest when thousands of young Irish men, many of them just boys, enrolled in the British Army, feeling that it was their patriotic duty to do so and take on a German army that had pillaged its way through Belgium and France, committing some terrible atrocities along the way.

To enlist was considered to be the loyal, manly and even the patriotic thing to do, but through the course of the Great War, the course of Irish history was to change inexorably, with the 1916 Rising and the reigniting of the Irish nationalist cause.

But for a moment, put yourself in the shoes of the young Galway soldier lucky enough to have survived battles like Gallipoli and The Somme, returning home on the run-up to Christmas 1918, shortly after the war had ended.

These soldiers had survived hell on earth and even those who had escaped life maiming injuries were still traumatised. We were told as children that these ex-soldiers were ‘shell-shocked’ and ‘were never right since’ [the war], but if that wasn’t bad enough, they came home as outcasts and as local representatives of British imperialism.

Talk about all your misfortunes landing down on top of you, but those unfortunate survivors then had to try and return to some normality as the Irish War of Independence swung into action, and the campaign began in earnest to at last break away from the clasp of Britannia.

One of those ex-soldiers in my neck of the woods at Ballyglunin, who was given the nickname of ‘Mulligan’, ended up homeless and living out the rest of this days with only the dripping stones of the ‘dry eye’ of a bridge on the River Abbert for shelter.

He had a pension from the war, and drank most of it, with the balance being spent on a few loaves of bread to give him sustenance, and my father on returning from the local on a weekend night, would relay some tale told by ‘Mulligan’ about surviving machine gun fire and exploding shells.

CITY TRIBUNE

How would you rate your Galway City councillor? 

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley. From the pages of this week’s Galway City Tribune.

As Galway City Council returns after the Summer recess, we run the rule over all 18 elected members ahead of a busy schedule of meetings between now and Christmas. In short, they all ‘could do better’!

GALWAY CITY EAST

Alan Cheevers (FF)

Tends not to think before he speaks. Notion to build a stadium in Doughiska for a World Cup bid was a non-runner that boosted his profile and damaged his credibility.

Own goals aside, he’s hardworking and has cultivated a vote from the new Irish – Africans in Doughiska in particular – that position him as a future poll-topper. 7/10

 

Michael J Crowe (FF)

At that Bob Geldof “I don’t give two flying f*cks what you think of me” stage of life, he has assumed the role of godfather of the Council. The gimp of a man that has nothing to lose, he can attract controversy. Droll and – recently – measured in debates, he’s fed up of management’s cavalier attitude to councillors. 7/10

 

 

Owen Hanley (Soc Dem)

A work in progress. Gullible, he swallows City Hall’s propaganda without critically analysing issues – a byproduct of the rush to be ‘first’ to tweet Council “news”.

An isolated figure cut adrift from the ruling pact, he has grown in confidence during contributions to debates. Could nudge Niall Ó Tuathail off the Dáil ticket in Galway West. 7/10

 

Noel Larkin (Ind)

Quiet since opting out of the position of mayor in 2020, after a campaign to block him getting the chain caused controversy.

Unashamedly pro-business, he’s unafraid to speak out about issues like anti-social behaviour. Strikes a chord with a sizeable portion of the electorate by punching down. The mayoral debacle proved outspokenness can boomerang. 7/10

 

Declan McDonnell (Ind)

Will he run again? The most popular candidate out east in 2019, he may have reassessed his priorities during Covid-19 and after losing his grip on the ruling pact.

A big interest in planning, he’ll enjoy the nitty gritty of compiling a new Development Plan. Refunding a relatively small amount of expenses to the Council, after a Prime Time investigation found he over-claimed, doesn’t appear to have damaged him. 7/10

 

Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) 

Another who might call it a day after this term, she’s taking heavy hits from rivals – especially Alan Cheevers – who are eyeing up the Polltopper’s wheelbarrow of first preferences. Like most of the experienced crew, she was not suited to, and struggled with, online Council meetings on Zoom but still delivered ‘on the ground’. 7/10

 

 

GALWAY CITY CENTRAL 

Imelda Byrne (FF)

A leading light in equality education, she needs to bring the enthusiasm and competency of the day job as Access Officer of NUIG to her Council role.

Showed naivety with a motion calling for park-ranger community wardens; a well-intentioned but poorly worded idea. With more confidence and experience, she has potential. 7/10

 

Colette Connolly (Ind) 

With Catherine Connolly and Pádraig Conneely gone, she’s taken on role of chief contrarian. A surprisingly competent chair of Council meetings, so far, just months into her term as mayor.

Her strengths – tenacious, questioning, rebellious, and highly sceptical of Council management – are also her main weakness: she annoys colleagues with outbursts that can alienate her. 7/10

 

Mike Cubbard (Ind)

Like many younger councillors, he’s obsessed with his social media image. Went overboard on Facebook posts, in particular, during his two (successful) terms as mayor but has calmed down since without compromising constituency work.

From a Council estate, he ably represents the voice of the marginalised in areas of the ward abandoned by others. Needs a thicker skin. 7/10

 

Frank Fahy (FG)

Has more regard for working class than your average Fine Gaeler and is ‘Left’ on most issues compared with other Blueshirts, bar law and order when he returns to type – right-of-centre, hard-line.

Occasionally highlights unusual stories – dealers using jet-skis on the Corrib to deliver drugs to Galway was one – that attract sensational headlines and ‘Are you for real?’ reactions. 7/10

 

Eddie Hoare (FG)

Anyone expecting outspokenness like Pádraig Conneely will be disappointed. Brings optimism and positivity that was anathema to his predecessor and, as an accountant, has a decent grasp of figures which will come in handy at Budget time. Too obsessed with social media, he could do with less cheerleading, and more questioning, of officials. 7/10

 

 

Martina O’Connor (Greens)

More to her than meets the eye. Could struggle to keep calm in the Chamber when chairing meetings as Deputy Mayor. But she is an engaged councillor who pushes the green agenda and fights for women in politics, regardless of party. Inexperienced and naive when it comes to taking officials at face value.  7/10

 

 

GALWAY CITY WEST 

John Connolly (FF)

A fine example of how resilience rewards. Unseated in 2009, he didn’t make a Dáil breakthrough in 2016, but persevered and has shown hunger for the political fray since returning in 2019. One of the few elected Gaeligeoirí, he’s relishing being back on the Council questioning the executive and barking at rivals. Too sensitive.  7/10

 

 

Clodagh Higgins (FG)

A bundle of energy and enthusiasm, she appears to enjoy the job. There’s a needle between her and party colleague Eddie Hoare, suggesting both have ambitions beyond local politics.

Sloppy wording of a tweet about disability drew the misogynist wrath of keyboard warriors; and her handling of plans for a cycle-lane on Salthill Prom proved the folly of trying to be all things to all people. 7/10  

 

Peter Keane (FF)

Not as prominent at meetings as he was prior to the pandemic, is overshadowed by more ambitious colleagues, and has given up on plans to progress to national politics.

Another one the Zoom meetings didn’t suit, the solicitor remains an asset to the largest party on the Council but is it making use of his obvious talents?  7/10  

 

Donal Lyons (Ind) 

Long live the King! Retired from An Post earlier this year, he’s adamant he’s not slowing down politically. Was frustrated by Zoom meetings, and hasn’t made the impact of previous terms. Will reign supreme in Knocknacarra for as long as he likes.  7/10

 

 

Niall McNelis (Lab)

Dubbed ‘Harry Three Pacts’ by colleagues who have disdain – and a sneaky regard – for his manoeuvring to secure a place in the ruling rainbow, he’s well able to go.

Enthusiastic and energetic, he does Trojan voluntary work wearing different hats. Needs to take off the maroon-tinted glasses, though, and realise his loyalty is to the public, not unelected officials. 7/10

 

Niall Murphy (Greens) 

He’s no Pauline O’Reilly – his predecessor – but has the potential to be a decent councillor. The one thing standing in his way of becoming a decent councillor is that he thinks he is one already. A little less ‘I know best’, and a little more listening and learning is needed. 7/10 

 

 

Read Bradley Bytes in the Galway City Tribune every week. You can subscribe online

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Connacht Tribune

Parties no longer getting their own way at annual think-ins

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Brian Cowen, Mary Hannafin, and Bertie Ahern at the Fianna Fail think-in at Inchydoney back in 2004.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It’s Autumn and leaves are falling from the trees and blackberries are ripe and the party think-ins are in full flow. These away days for parties were originally to bring the parliamentary parties together after the summer break so they could regather their thoughts and come up with their strategies for the new Dáil session.

Then the bigger parties started getting guest speakers in, sometimes to give a contrary and unorthodox view on the economy or society.

It was at one such meeting in Inchydoney Hotel in Cork in 2004 when Fr Seán Healy of Social Justice Ireland addressed Fianna Fáil to explain to them that all the prosperity that had come into Ireland in recent years had led to widening inequalities.

It was out of that that the Inchydoney Strategy emerged, a reorientation by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of his party’s prevailing ideology. The Fianna Fáil leader declared himself a socialist at the Cork resort and the party began to promote policies in Government that were less about economic expansion, more about the social dividend.

All of this happened during the course of the Celtic Tiger, when the economy was expanding at a ferocious rate, and already beginning to show signs of overheating. Ahern replaced Charlie McCreevy as Minister for Finance (he became EU Commissioner) with Brian Cowen. The Offaly TD was seen as less ‘PD’ than McCreevy. Indeed, he had famously said of the Progressive Democrats at an Ard Fheis: “When in doubt, leave them out.”

That strategy did reorient the economy but it was probably too late even then. The Celtic Tiger was at its height and Cowen pulled his punches when it came to taking the hard decisions between 2004 and 2008, with a series of milk-and-water budgets.

The Fianna Fáil manifesto for the 2007 general election was great for the party to get back into power but awful for the economy and society. The implications were not seen for two years, but when the symptoms of malaise appeared, of course, it was far too late to do anything about it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway show guts of champions in a terrific camogie final triumph

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Galway players Aoife Donohue and Siobhan Gardiner with young fan Aine Rohan from Beagh after defeating Cork in Sunday's All-Ireland senior camogie final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO Evan Treacy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THEY are a credit to the county. All the tributes flowing the way of the Galway camogie team this week are richly deserved after their storming finish floored the Rebels at Croke Park on Sunday. It was defiance of the highest order.

Team managers regularly demand of their players in all sports to be ‘carried out on your shield’, but it rarely happens. Too much tension; too much at stake; too much pressure. Well, these remarkable Tribeswomen were in no mood for compromise even when defeat was staring them in the face.

In my near 41-years in the Tribune, it’s doubtful if I have ever seen a Galway team in an All-Ireland final find such reserves of character and sheer heart when the gun was put to their heads. All day, they had hunted in packs but still found themselves three points down with ten minutes remaining in a thrilling showdown.

What more had they left to give? They had thrown everything at Cork from the off and still couldn’t protect their early established lead. It would have been easy to falter physically and mentally, but from somewhere Galway found the necessary resolve to carry the day.

It made for compelling viewing. Cathal Murray’s team were just not prepared to surrender. Instead, they were the ones who exhibited the qualities of champions in pulling the All-Ireland out of the fire. Cork, the most successful county in the history of the sport, was the team to flinch.

Galway’s triumph – their fourth All-Ireland ever – must rank as their greatest of them all. It wasn’t just the fact that it came after a terrific spectacle, but also in the manner of their victory. They had come to GAA headquarters to win and there was no turning back.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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