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We might as well have a laugh with the Presidential race



Date Published: {J}

We might as well have a laugh with the Presidential race By conservative estimates, we owe the rest of the world – or at least the infamous troika – a couple of hundred billion euro. But at the same time, we now have more wannabe Presidents that you could shake a big stick at. So here’s an idea – why not get the latter to pay a chunk off the former and have a bit of craic for good measure?

Now that Gaybo has decided that he’s not the people’s choice after all – he probably realised that a ‘listeners poll’ carried out by 4FM isn’t the weather wave of public opinion that the staff might think it is – by process of elimination, it’s surely only a matter of time before Ronan Keating fulfils his long-cherished dream of being our man in the Arás.

In this ‘in again, out again’ Lannigan’s Ball of a campaign we had indications of interest from a chat show presenter, a Joycean senator, a man famous for being on Dragon’s Den, our first Eurovision winner and a Mulqueen man from Clare whose main advantage is that half of his surname is Queen and that gives a nice synergy to the office of President.

There are serious candidates in the midst of the mayhem as well, but Michael D Higgins and Gay Mitchell must be tearing their hair out – or what’s left of it – as every day the options grow more bizarre. And in an effort to somehow find someone from outside the world of politics, half the country suddenly seems to fancy a seven year stint in the Phoenix Park.

Incidentally, those who argue that Ireland is behind the door on gay rights cannot be paying attention; we’ve had a Gay Byrne and a gay senator in and out, so to speak, but Fine Gael has ensured there’s still one Gay left in the village – who’d have known there was such variety?

But now’s the time to get serious and turn all of this election lunacy into opportunity – we should have a talent show, the prize for which would be a nomination for the big house and a chance to run against the big boys. And we could charge a premium phone rate for the public to make their choice.

It could be an amalgam of all the shows we’ve seen before – a little bit All-Ireland Talent Show, a little bit Celebrity Bainisteoir, a slice of ICA Boot Camp and even a new run for Where in the World, given that the winner would need to know their geography for the seven years that may follow.

One week they could be asked to sing a song or do a little dance, so that we could send them to the White House for Paddy’s Day; another week we could have a smiling competition or a shaking hands marathon to test their real mettle.

We should make sure they know their Irish history with a quiz, and given that Mary McAleese got rid of most of the staff at the Arás, we need to know they can cook and clean this big house – hence those stern ICA women to ensure they’re up to the task.

The serious part of this is that we all know politics has a bad name but that shouldn’t mean we have a campaign that suggests it’s for anyone but politicians; Michael D, for example, is a man of the highest integrity and substance, but he’s been overran by former TV personalities who are being plucked out of thin air.

At least Uncle Gaybo proved he had a few of his marbles still intact by withdrawing – probably after the Sunday papers sharpened their teeth to gobble him up.

Fianna Fáil had attached itself to the housewives’ choice last week faster than a magnet to a fridge, but then again this is a party which would see the addition of Attila the Hun to its ranks as a step-up in popularity after its last election debacle.

Gaybo was a great presenter in his day, but by any stretch he’s quite a prickly man who – by his own admission last week – has no interest in touring Ireland on a bus and shaking hands in pursuit of votes.

But Gaybo, politicians call that canvassing – and Presidents call it meeting the people. Gaybo really only wants to go to film premieres and opening nights with Kathleen; he didn’t want to have to spend his Sundays opening community centres and eating buns at garden fetes.

And as Fintan O’Toole so succinctly summed it up last week, people were voting for Gaybo the radio persona – who is as different from the ferociously private Gabriel Mary Byrne as chalk is from cheese.

I have a feeling in my water that there’s another rabbit to be pulled from a hat yet­ – despite her earlier denials, just wait until the cry goes up for Miriam O’Callaghan and watch what happens. She dismissed it months ago, but that was before Uncle Gaybo came over all statesmanlike. And the closer to the deadline for nominations, the more tempting the proposition because the campaigning will be minimal and the recognition and likeability factors will both be a given.


She may well face a challenge from that other Mary Byrne – if she wins our Presidential X-Factor – or perhaps we’ll do a job share among 10 breakdancers from some inner city Dublin flat complex.

In truth we can only hope that there are a few issues of substance to debate along the way, instead of a media that spends its time playing Fantasy President for the gaiety of the nation – if you pardon the pun – through to the end of the silly season.

At the end of the day, as the presence of real candidates like Michael D Higgins and Gay Mitchell prove, the Presidency isn’t some prize that should be touted around to the most famous celebrity who shrugs an interest; it is the highest office in the land and cannot be decided on the back of a poll on 4FM or, God forbid, the Sunday Independent.

So let’s stop plucking names out of thin air and get serious – if we’re not careful Ronan Keating will sneak in that unbeknownst to us, and we’ll never be able to get him out.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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

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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