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Despite its new leader Fianna F‡il is a party in disarray



Date Published: {J}

Yes, I got my own website’s address wrong last week . . . It should of course have been – with no spaces anywhere. Come and visit. It’s just like this column except it appears every day, it’s illustrated, and I don’t get paid for it.

But here I am now in Dublin, opposite the National Leprechaun Museum. Or as some call it, the Dáil. My heart is bright, but let’s not celebrate yet. They can still damage the country right up until the moment of dissolution. Already the Government (if one can still call it that) has secured the support of Lowry and Healy-Rae on the Finance Bill. I dread to imagine what sort of backroom dealings were behind that one. Factories built in the middle of national parks . . . people actually making sandwiches out of money.

The outcome of the leadership race was fairly predictable. Micheál Martin looks like fine Fianna Fáil Taoiseach material. An innocent-seeming exterior disguising killer political instincts – I’m already thinking of him as Bertie II. But strategically, this was the poorest choice the party could have made.

The first mistake may have been to lose Cowen at all. Sure, Fianna Fáil’s elders knew that campaigning under him would have led to an electoral slaughterhouse. But that might not actually have been the worst possible outcome. Making Cowen the scapegoat for everything was the best chance FF had of recreating themselves. After the election they could have chosen a new leader and declared themselves to be a new party, one no longer the servant of bankers and developers.

Now where are they? Still going to receive the worst electoral crucifixion in their history, but under the leadership of their Bright New Hope. It will in effect be a second, fresh rejection by the public. And that will be devastating. I would not be too surprised if Micheál Martin is the last leader a united Fianna Fáil ever elects.

The second best option would have been to choose a second best leader. Save Martin for the next election, and pass the poison chalice to someone more expendable. Hanafin perhaps. First female FF leader, it would seem fresh. Cynical, yet fresh. Or Lenihan; he sustained a lot of damage as Minister for Finance and his health problems militate against him ever becoming Taoiseach anyway. The dynasty has its back-up copy in Conor. Maybe it was time to play Brian’s card.

But unfortunately for the leadership, it is easier to oust a leader than to ordain a new one. A shoo-in, as when Cowen replaced Ahern, was not possible with the party still in full headless chicken mode. Rather than take the long view, TDs ran to the one they see as the best hope for saving their seats right now. The man who significantly distanced himself from Cowen – by publicly turning on him. The party’s reputation for discipline has never looked so ill-founded.

If you’d have asked me though, the ideal choice for leader was Éamon Ó Cuív. My reasons are less political than aesthetic; it’s nice to have symmetry. If they’d elected Ó Cuív, the history of the Fianna Fáil party would have had matching bookends.

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

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




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.

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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