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Speculation Lawless could ‘get the nod’ from Kenny for spot in Senate



Date Published: {J}

The name of Billy Lawless has cropped up bigtime in speculation in Galway Fine Gael circles in the past week as a possibility for a nomination as one of the ‘Taoiseach’s Eleven’ to the Senate from Enda Kenny – Lawless is the city man with the very strong White House and Obama links.

Before anyone runs off and starts ringing Billy Lawless in Chicago to congratulate him, can I stress that these sort of posts are kept tightly under wraps. The eventual ‘Eleven’ will be divided between Fine Gael and Labour at the end of the Senate election count and after lobbying, pressure and negotiation that will be intense right up to the very last minute.

However, that hasn’t stopped the speculation in FG circles in Galway because of the extraordinary Lawless connections to The White House and because of the importance of the ‘Irish American’ issues in the States because of the numbers of undocumented Irish who are in the US.

It would also provide an unusual link outside the normal run of politics, if Enda Kenny were anxious to spread the ‘experience’ of the Senate a little outside the usual world of politics. That is before the promised referendum is eventually held to abolish the Upper House, in line with the cost-cutting proposals put forward by just about every party in the run up to the election a few weeks ago.

Certainly, if it were decided to give recognition in this way, Lawless would have the kind of credentials which are rare – he runs a major business in the States and he is a personal friend of both President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, that friendship going back some years to the time when Michelle Obama had her own law practice in Chicago.

At the time, Billy Lawless ran a pub, ‘The Cage’ in the Chicago neighbourhood and got to know Michelle Obama, with a friendship growing up between Lawless and then young rising stars of the political firmament. It was at a time when Barack Obame just beginning his meteoric rise from Chicago to the White House.

That friendship was part of the background, for instance, to Galway City Councillor Padraig Conneely getting an invitation as Mayor to the White House St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Billy Lawless has also been deeply personally involved with the whole issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States, something that seems destined to be a major issue in time to come … with the Lawless White House connections being very unique as a possible link to high places in the US administration.

Lawless was home in Galway a few weeks ago to hail the remarkable Fine Gael victory in Galway West, where Brian Walsh and Sean Kyne took two FG Dail seats in Galway West for the first time in almost thirty years.

The very successful Chicago restaurauteur had come home to spend two weeks on the campaign trail full-time with Brian Walsh. That friendship goes back years to the time when Brian Walsh’s late father, Councillor Pascal Walsh, was a popular and long-serving member of Galway City Council.

Meanwhile, other Galway names to watch in Fine Gael – as those Senate votes are counted – are former Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames, Councillor Michael Mullins, Councillor Peter Feeney and Councillor Tom McHugh, the latter three in Galway East where Fine Gael will be seeking to add to its power base in the wake of two Dail seats won (Paul Connaughton and Ciaran Cannon).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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