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The forgotten heroes who suffered in life and death

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Last prayers: Members of the 10th Irish Division at camp in Basingstoke, England, attending a prayer service – and throwing an eye at the camera too – as they prepared to depart for the front line in 1915, many of them never to return.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Growing up as a child of the sixties, there were many references to the Second World War or The Emergency as it was known in Ireland, and it was a topic that could be talked about quite openly and without any sense of restriction.

In the shadows though, lurked many ghosts from the First World War . . . the only problem was, that many of them weren’t in fact ghosts, but were now old men living out their latter years in villages, towns and communities where The Great War was a taboo subject.

Very occasional references would be made in our house to men who still lived around the place and who had survived one horrible episode in the history of the world, as four years of slugging it out in the trenches, led to a wipe-out of about nine million people.

Like all children, during conversations of the grown-ups, we would assiduously eavesdrop on what was being said and occasionally the name of an individual would be mentioned who had soldiered during The Great War. One of those incisive but simple phrases we would hear about someone who had taken part in the campaign was: “that they were never right afterwards.”

Another little phrase trotted out here and there was that such ex-combatants were “shell shocked” and we’d also hear of them “never settling again’ and of “taking to the drink”. There was also a tale of one ex-soldier who eked some kind of primal existence, living under the dry eye of a bridge, his only escape from hardship being the few pints of plain he would consume each evening to help him damply sleep under his stone roof.

As bad and all as the physical and mental scars of the war were on the returning Irish soldiers, they then of course had to face back into an Ireland where the entire political and social landscape had changed in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and the flames of nationalism had again been rekindled. So instead of returning as heroes to Ireland after ‘success’ in the Great War, the Irish soldiers found themselves looked upon as members of the enemy ranks, not to be trusted and often reviled in more hard-line Republican circles. Time slipped by and the old soldiers passed away, quietly and without tribute: in many cases, death an ease to them, in their troubled world of old age, post traumatic stress and semi-ostracism in their own communities.

Given our difficult birth and adolescence as a nation, it has taken us almost 100 years to come to terms with the huge sacrifices made by Irish soldiers and their families during World War 1 and to fittingly acknowledge their bravery and courage as they made their way through blood and bodies in places like The Somme and Gallipoli, waiting for the next bullet to pierce their skulls or chests.

While the biggest blood bath of all during World War 1 was The Somme – where one millions soldiers died in the battle for a net gain of about five miles of territory – the one that’s in the news over the past week is Gallipoli, where 141,000 soldiers lost their lives, 55,000 Allied Forces and 86,000 Turks.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Labour is working hard to stand still in Galway

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Galway City used to be fertile ground for the Labour Party. There was a time, not so long ago, when Labour was the largest party on Galway City Council.

In 2009, Billy Cameron, Colette Connolly, Derek Nolan, Tom Costello and Níall McNelis held five seats out of 15. Now, Labour has one out of 18. McNelis, a former Fine Gael candidate, is the sole flag-bearer for the Red Rose party on the local authority.

Much of the popular jeweller’s vote is personal, rather than an endorsement of the party. The Labour brand could be more a hindrance than a help for him.

Labour haemorrhaged support in the 2014 Local Election, losing three City Council seats. Only Comrade Cameron and McNelis survived. That trend continued when Labour’s core voters in the working suburbs of Galway City turned their backs on the party in 2016.

Die-hards were betrayed by the top-brass who had promised so much in the 2011 General Election but failed to deliver.

First-time TD, Derek Nolan who rode the Gilmore Gale and topped the poll in 2011, was unceremoniously dumped five years later. Labour hasn’t recovered.

McNelis polled strongly in City West to be re-elected in 2019. But John McDonagh failed to hold the retiring Comrade Cameron’s seat (albeit that one vote was the difference between him and fellow Shantalla candidate, Martina O’Connor) in City Central.

And it was a disaster altogether in City East, where Liam Boyle came 13th out of 16 candidates, behind relatively unknown rivals in Solidarity, Renua and the Greens. The defection of long-serving member, Pat Hardiman, who ran last-minute as an Independent, highlighted how the party organisation was in disarray. Galway County Council is a wasteland for Labour, too.

The problem for Labour now is the electorate has moved on. Sinn Féin (which had a disastrous Local Election, losing all of its three seats on Galway City Council in 2019), occupies the space on the Left where Labour used to be.

Independents like Mike Cubbard, and former Labour councillor, Colette Connolly, offer Labour supporters an alternative without the toxicity or baggage of the brand.

And the Social Democrats and Green Party (also, to an extent, the liberal wings of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil) mean that social issues like abortion and LGBT+ rights are no longer a Labour niche.

Dumping the gruff Alan Kelly as leader has made zero tangible, positive difference in Galway; it’s hard to imagine his replacement, Ivana Bacik, swaying many undecided voters in former heartlands of Shantalla and Corrib Park.

A party source denied it was struggling to find candidates for the fast-approaching Locals in 2024. The source said Labour has four “very strong” candidates lined up to run, two each in City Central and City East. The target is three seats; that’s a gain of two, plus McNelis to hold.

The Labour source added: “We have candidates who will be unveiled in the autumn. They’re candidates of diversity and gender balance. I’m not giving any names but they are all new candidates; very, very strong candidates.”

They’d want to be!

(Photo: In the 2019 Local Elections, Niall McNelis was the only Labour Party candidate to be elected to Galway City Council, when he held his seat. There was a time in the recent past when Labour had five seats on the Council).

This is a shortened preview version of this article. For more Bradley Bytes, see the August 5 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Áras an Uachtaráin and the constitutional ties that bind

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Making headlines... President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina during their visit to the Galway 1916 Exhibition in the former Connacht Tribune Print Works on Market Street.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Those who become President of Ireland are, metaphorically, provided with a silken gag; for the seven years they reside in Áras an Uachtaráin, they are supposed to keep their opinions and personal political persuasions to themselves.

The relevant Article in the Constitution sets out this rule: “No power or function conferred on the President by law shall be exercisable or performable by him save only on the advice of the Government.”

The President is not allowed to leave the State without first receiving the advice (i.e. the permission) of the Government. Theoretically, every speech they make needs to be run by the government first.

The President is said to be “above politics”. That meant they are not subject to any criticism from parliament or from the government. The other side of the coin is that it is expected the President will not wander into the political forum.

For most of the time since the office of the President was established in 1937, these rules have caused no major problems. With one exception.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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

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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

Sense of belonging that brings it all back home

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It was a chat with a ‘Galwegian in exile’ that brought it all home to me; although now domiciled in the capital for more years than he’d lived in the west, he was delighted to bring his Dublin-born daughter to the All-Ireland Football Final wearing her maroon jersey.

To be honest, she’d probably have gone to Croke Park dressed as Elsa from Frozen because it was just a day out – but Daddy couldn’t have been prouder if his eleven-year-old came on for Damien Comer with five minutes to go.

The sense of place is understandable when it comes to ourselves as born-and-bred Galwegians, because while you can change where you live as often as you like, even if you wanted to, you can never change where you’re from.

But trying to impose your own geographical heritage on the next generation is alternatively seen as understandable and a little selfish at the same time.

It’s a topic for discussion in our own house on occasion because while the two lads grew up in Galway, they were in fact born in Dublin – and if they want to pull my chain, all they have to do is remind of that fact.

My reply is a tired and stock one, to the effect that although Jesus was born in a stable, nobody ever suggested that made him a horse.

The more serious point is that you are shaped by your formative years rather than the maternity hospital of your arrival – and those years were spent in Galway.

Galway is their point of reference for sport and music and school friends and nights out and pubs and college – and almost everything else that really matters.

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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