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Two Ministers poles apart on policy Ð but linked through a shared lack of humility

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Date Published: 26-Sep-2012

James Reilly and Brendan Howlin come from hugely contrasting political backgrounds, belong to different parties and have very different outlooks on the world. Yet in the past week, as both found themselves in the eye of political storms, each showed that they had one trait in common – a complete lack of humility.

That’s a diplomatic way of saying arrogant. And both gave breathtaking examples of it during the week when defending their decisions and their policies.

Health is the most difficult brief in Cabinet, with the possible exception of Finance. And like so many of his predecessors, James Reilly has learned why Brian Cowen called it Angola – with political landmines lurking everywhere.

Hardly a week has gone by of late when Reilly has not been in the eye of the storm. There was his failure to let others known HSE chief executive Cathal Magee was stepping down; his name being listed for a debt default in Stubb’s Gazette; his various property and business dealings; and the cackhanded way in which the HSE announced €160 million in stinging cuts.

But in the past week it has become personal with his fraught and tense relationship with Minister of State Roisin Shortall becoming centre stage. Not only did she refuse to name him in the course of a four minute speech during the ‘no confidence’ debate in the Dail. To be sure, she used the occasion to launch a Scud attack on his handling of the health services.

And there was a sting in the tail. She referred to a lack of transparency in the process to select primary care centres. A day later The Irish Times ran the story that Reilly had added two centres in his own constituency to the list.

And the back-story to Howlin’s little piece of bother is also telling. It was his Budget, or – to be more accurate – Estimates, speech last December in which he promised he would cut the allowances paid to workers in the public sector by a modest five per cent in 2012. That amounted to a target of €75m. Moreover, he promised a further €150m in cuts in 2013; and another €150m in 2014.

Well all of that unravelled last week, when Howlin announced the result of the exercise. What we got was a lot of bluster and no substance. Only €3.5m of the €75m savings had been achieved and only a solitary single allowance out of 1,100 was abolished.

There would be 180 allowances modified or reduced for new entrants in the future. They were allowances worth €475m, Howlin piously said, as if it was worth almost half a billion in savings. In fact, the saving was zero. The €475m will continue to be paid ad infinitum. And with an embargo, recruitment will be so low that savings will be next to zero.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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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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