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The Mayor who came up with a ÔstretchÕ Mercedes



Date Published: {J}

I have very little experience of the concept of the ‘directly elected Mayor’ – a system which is now proposed for Dublin by Environment Minister John Gormley and, for which, it appears, we will see the legislation within a matter of a very short time.

My one experience of the power of a ‘real’ Mayor was in Strasbourg where an appeal for facilities by a bunch of ne’r-do-wells who included yours truly, resulted in the biggest binge in which I have ever taken part . . . and days spent in recovery from alcohol poisoning.

In a number of countries in Europe they have a very sophisticated and powerful system of local government – with the Mayor there having at his/her discretion a huge budget, a very large amount of autonomy and a system of administration which would be the envy of any Irish city, provided it had the necessary funds.

Local government in Ireland is largely hamstrung by the fact that local revenue collection is very constricted indeed . . . though, perhaps that yielded a cheer from business in the Galway City where business people have been complaining for years that they pay too much in Rates and in levies such as development charges.

However, they will have noted that the Rates this year were frozen in an effort to meet at least a fraction of the real difficulties which businesses are facing in the opening months of a year in which we have seen too much of the heartbreak of closures and job losses.


Of course this whole business of Rates levied on business premises was distorted more than 30 years ago when – as part of a Fianna Fáil giveaway Election Manifesto in 1977 – FF decided that one of the key ingredients in winning the election and ousting the Liam Cosgrave-led Fine Gael-Labour government, was to hold out the prospect of abolishing domestic Rates on ordinary households.

Up to then, Rates on family homes were one of the most hated – and feared – impositions. In harder times than we have even now, families scrimped and scraped together the money in what was called two ‘moieties’. That meant that you could divide the payment into two halves.

But, in a time of mass unemployment, mass emigration, and damn poor wages for those who had a job, putting together a figure like £70 per annum was quite a struggle for many. I remember in my father’s house, a few pounds would be put behind The Sacred Heart picture on the mantelpiece every now and again, and the mood got darker and darker as the payment date approached.

Of course, in 1977, the electorate fell for the ‘Rates abolition’ promise, hook, line and sinker. It was part of the reason why FF Leader Jack Lynch came back with a 20-seat majority in the Dáil. As part of the move, Lynch promised that central government would pay to local authorities the money for local services which they were losing because of Rates abolition.

Predictably, central government did not keep its promises of money to local authorities to help them fund services like water, sewerage and all the other things which any community needs. Central government persistently left the local authorities short of the money they needed.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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