Date Published: 01-May-2013
Brian Walsh is under absolutely no illusion about the repercussions of the political bombshell he delivered on Monday morning when he became the first TD to state in public that he will not support the controversial abortion legislation being prepared by Government.
"It could herald the end of my membership of the party and of my political career. It does place me in a precarious position but I have done what I believe is right," he told me earlier this week.
It means that when the Dail finally votes on the Protection of Maternal Life Bill in July (it’s going to take that long for it to go through all stages in the Oireachtas), Walsh will not follow his colleagues up the steep stairs of the Dail chamber and turn left into the Government lobby.
It’s a common enough site in British politics where backbench rebellions are frequent and sometimes lead to Government proposals being defeated. In many instances, there are no sanctions for the mutinous MPs.
But in Ireland it is a rare phenomenon. The culture of politics here is that a much stronger whip is imposed and defying the whip is a much bigger deal. In most cases, it leads to expulsion from the parliamentary party.
Occasionally, a member will be given a warning if he or she abstained. But as we have seen in this Dail, if you are a Government TD who votes against the Government you more or less lose the party whip. The Galway East TD Colm Keaveney knows all about that since last December.
It is rarer still for a TD to vote against the Government on a matter of conscience. In 1985, Dessie O’Malley was expelled for Fianna Fáil after supporting Coalition government legislation that liberalised the availability of contraceptives.
O’Malley was already in the wars with Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey, having lost the party whip in an internal party row over the Northern peace process. His decision to back Fianna Fail’s Coalition rivals led to his expulsion from the party, an event that eventually resulted in the establishment of the Progressive Democrats a year later.
The decision by Walsh is a very brave one and has been done in accordance with his own conscience. It took everybody by surprise, not least because he has not been seen as belonging to a prominent group of Fine Gael TDs who had publicly voiced their concerns about the legislation.
As he has made very clear, he has very strong convictions on the matter and rejects the premise of any legislation that includes provisions for a suicide threat, no matter how rigorously drafted. He set out his thinking to me earlier this week:
"The overwhelming medical evidence is that abortion is an inappropriate treatment for mental health issues.
"It looks like we are going to ignore the evidence. I have no problem with anything that gives guidance and clarity to doctors to make sure that a woman’s life is protected. I have no problem either with the repeal of the 1860 Offences Against the Person Act.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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
Galway have lot to ponder in poor show
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013
FRANK FARRAGHER IN ENNISCRONE
GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.
The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.
There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.
It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.
Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.
Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.
Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.
Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.
Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.
Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Mervue United advance to the quarter-finals of U-17 FAI Cup
Date Published: 29-Jan-2013
On a weekend when the vast majority of the action fell by the wayside due to the inclement weather, Mervue United U-17 struck late to snatch a winner in Donegal as they qualified for the last eight of the FAI U-17 Cup following a success over Swilly Rovers.
Local League action saw just three games survive as OLBC notched a second half winner to defeat Hibernians to move into third position in the Premier League.
In the lower Divisions, table toppers Mervue United B and Moyne Villa continued on their merry ways with away wins over Bohemians and Naomh Briocain.
Swilly Rovers 0
Mervue United 1
In a game that was switched to a playable pitch in Fanad, Mervue United took a long time to assert their authority before striking late to give the home side no chance to respond.
The 89th minute winner was created by an Andrew Connolly flick on following a Ryan Manning thrown in and Schoolboy International Conor Melody made space for himself in the box before firing past Caolan Bolton.
It was no less than the visitors deserved against a young home side, but they had to work extremely hard for their victory.
While Anthoine O’Laoi missed a good first half opportunity, just a long range Manning free kick tested Bolton otherwise. Substitute John Migel Soler almost made an instant impact on the resumption, but was denied by a smart save.
Connolly, O’Laoi and Paul Healy all threatened a break though for the visitors, before a fine-tuned Melody eventually saved the day and secured the Mervue passage.
Mervue United: P Healy, Barry, Bailey, P Healy, Carroll, Melody, Assagbo, Manning, Cunningham (Soler), Connolly, O’Laoi.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.