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Remarks ‘Unworthy of the men in the Dáil’

Thu, Feb 04, 2016

I have written before how records from the Military Pensions Archive show that more than 200 members of Cumman na mBan, some who had sustained injuries and took risks with their lives participating in military action both during the Easter Rising, and in the subsequent War of Independence, were refused a pension because the pension was only applicable ‘to soldiers as generally understood in the masculine sense’.*

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Dáil Eireann - ‘The only Government that I recognise’

Thu, Jan 28, 2016

Following the throwing out of the so called Galway Resolution in December 1920, by which some Galway county councilors attempted to reject the authority of the newly elected Dáil, to rescind the process of passing on the rates' revenues to the Dáil (rather than to the British authorities); and to absurdly propose to bring the War of Independence to a close by directly offering to negotiate with the British prime minster David Lloyd George, the council'c vice-chairman, Alice Cashel, was arrested almost immediately.

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‘The Galway Resolution’ - An attempted coup by some county councillors

Fri, Jan 22, 2016

On December 3 1920, at the height of the War of Independence, quite an extraordinary event happened in Galway County Council. It passed a resolution, known as ‘The Galway Resolution’, repudiating the authority of the newly established Dáil; it rescinded the resolution for the collection of rates, (which were collected locally, and passed on to Dáil Éireann, and not to the British authorities), and incredibly, Galway County Council now offered its offices to negotiate peace, directly with the British prime minister, David Lloyd George.

It was an extraordinary development after a terrible year of violence, and sacrifice in Galway. That year, 1920, saw murder and mayhem come to a climax.

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Soldiers of 1916 - ‘generally understood in the masculine sense’

Thu, Jan 14, 2016

Despite the crucial role many women played in the 1916 Rising, very few were given the credit they deserved. In fact some were refused a pension for many years because they were not ‘men’. In at least one case, the valiant role played by Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell was simply airbrushed out of history.

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‘What the hell is going on?’

Thu, Jan 07, 2016

‘What the hell is going on?’ appears to be what the British Prime Minister Herbert H Asquith, is thinking as he disembarks at Dun Laoghaire on May 12 1916, almost three weeks after the Easter Rising. Following six days of intensive fighting, Dublin city centre was unrecogniseable. Practically all its main buildings were destroyed either by artillery fire or burnt out. The list of casualities was horrendous. One hundred and sixteen army dead, 368 wounded, and nine missing. Sixteen policemen died, and 29 wounded. And this at a time when Britain was fighting an appalling war in France, which seemed unending, and its mounting causalities were not only threatening his government’s survival, but had filled the British people with dread and alarm.

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‘When I makes tea I makes tea, and when I makes water I makes water’

Wed, Dec 23, 2015

part II

James Joyce’s famous novel Ulysses describes the appointments and encounters of Leopold Bloom as he wanders through Dublin on an ordinary day, June 16 1904.

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Christmas dinner with the Misses Morkan

Thu, Dec 17, 2015

We get out of bed at nine, and Nora makes chocolate. At midday we have lunch which we (or rather she) buys (soup, meat, potatoes and some thing else)...At 4 o’clock we have chocolate, and at 8 o’clock dinner which Nora cooks.

(Letter to James Joyce’s brother Stanislaus, December 3 1904)

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‘Coming in from the cold’ at UCG

Thu, Dec 10, 2015

Even the master of intrigue himself, John le Carré, would have been mystified at the bizarre challenges the late Labhrás Ó Nualláin was presented with when he applied for a lectureship in economics, commerce and accountancy (through Irish) at University College Galway in 1953.

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Why Irish women are on the borderline of lunacy!

Thu, Dec 03, 2015

Poor Irish women. The journey from Peig Sayers to Miriam O’ Callaghan has not been an easy one, and for many women simply unattainable. While in that time, men have found new confidence in the worlds of business, science, sport, teaching and the professions (even having the confidence to wreck the country in a spectacular fashion, as they did some years ago), women, in a patriarchal society, are still struggling to find their own expression, to escape the dominance of the Catholic Church, and, in the views of author Emma Comerford, ‘to control the tendency towards alcohol abuse and other manifestations of low self-esteem’.

It is a serious matter. Recently we have all read the stories of women seeking equality in the boardroom, the Dáil and the Seanad; and an appropriate acknowledgement for their role in our history. Even to secure a place on the stage of the national theatre, which was originally founded by a Galway woman, the great Lady Augusta Gregory, has been difficult, if not impossible. And much more.

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The Sheridans, and the ‘human connection to our land’

Thu, Nov 26, 2015

One of the great business success stories in Galway has to be the rise and rise of the Sheridan brothers, who began selling cheese from a small stall at the Saturday market, to become a national brand, with products selling in major British food stores, and across the continent.

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The Bull of Sheriff Street

Thu, Nov 19, 2015

Artists can be very awkward at times. They don’t always conform to decisions made on their behalf. They rarely behave nicely if they disagree with authority.

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‘Something better could be found’

Thu, Nov 12, 2015

The Great Famine of 1845-51 was, the Galway historian Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh tells us*, ‘a subsistence crisis, and a social calamity without parallel in the 19th century. It resulted in more than 1,000,000 dying of starvation and related diseases; and it ‘precipitated a virtual tidal wave of emigration that would see 4,000,000 flee the country during the following 20 years’. 

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How America hated the Irish exodus

Thu, Oct 29, 2015

When Charles Dickens first visited the United States in January 1842, the popularity of his books was such that he was mobbed by adoring crowds, feted and dined as the major celebrity that he undoubtedly was, and was guest of honour at a famous Valentine’s Ball in New York attended by 3,000 of the city’s great and good.

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A time when the Irish were not welcome

Thu, Oct 22, 2015

Between the years 1845 and 1855 more than 2.1 million people emigrated from Ireland. They streamed into Liverpool, Manchester, Boston and New York. Many were diseased, hungry, dirty, broken spirited, with barely any personal belongings. Some embarked actually naked.

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A letter from Seamus Heaney

Thu, Oct 15, 2015

Week II

Irish traditional music is one of the great survivors of history. Maybe it was because we are an island, way off on our own in the western Atlantic, and until the latter decades of the last  century, out of hearing from the mass cultural movements of popular cinema, radio and TV, especially the modern music from Europe and the US, that something distinctive has survived. As a boy I would only hear traditional music sessions in a few Gaelteacht areas, or from the welcoming Standún family in Spiddal, or at the Féiseanna at An Taibhdhearc, which was more memorable for the day off from school than it was for the music.

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An Unusual connection between Breaking Bad and ‘Eva of the Nation’

Thu, Oct 08, 2015

Most of us are mad jealous that we cannot claim some kind of connection with Caherlistrane. A new book by Mary J Murphy*  manages to link the north Galway parish with an extraordinary number of writers, artists, singers, poets, actors, and historical personalities, that leave all other parishes in Ireland bereft of personality and character. There can be no other competition. We are all characterless by comparison to Caherlistrane.

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‘A ghostly presence through trees and over bog’

Fri, Oct 02, 2015

One of Ireland’s great engineering feats in the 19th century was the building of the Galway - Clifden railway. After 30 years of argument as to which was the best route, the first train steamed out of Galway to Oughterard on January 1 1895; and the final section to Clifden was finished by July of that year.

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One war that Fr Conway lost

Thu, Sep 24, 2015

Week III

Before Fr Peter Conway was appointed parish priest of Headford, he was a curate in Ballinrobe. His very considerable energies were thrown into building a new church and presbytery. He also succeeded in acquiring a site for the Convent of Mercy and Christian Brothers’ schools in a primary location in the centre of the town. And all may have been well, and the good father praised for his building and organisational skills, and allowed to live in peace, were it not for the Mayo general election of April 6 1857.

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‘God grant peace to America’

Thu, Sep 17, 2015

Despite Fr Peter Conway’s row with the Protestant rector of Headford, the Rev Dean Plunkett (and there were some appalling battles against Protestants to come), he got on surprisingly well with the landlord of the whole area, the impressively named Richard Mensergh St George, Esq, also the High Sheriff. Initially, when Conway asked him if he would donate land for a church for his Catholic tenants, the request was turned down flat. But out of the blue, St George invited Conway to his house one day and offered him an acre of ground ‘anywhere on his estate’, rent free forever;  furthermore, he gave an additional seven acres of land for a priest’s house, and a subscription of £20 for a school.

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