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The first six months of 2017 have been hectic to say the least - a change of taoiseach, arguments which have severely tested the stability of the government and brought us to the brink of a general election more than once, a UK general election, and the collapse of the Stormont Assembly.
During her first visit to Ireland while walking the road from Oranmore to Loughrea, Aesnath Nicholson, a lone witness to the growing desperation of the poor as successive years of the Great Famine took its frightening toll, stopped to rest her blistered feet. She leant against a wall and thought about the advice her friends had given her in America. They told her the trip was reckless and she would damage her health. Yet even at that moment she asked herself: Would she rather be back in her parlour in New York?
In 1912, the county of Mayo had been through seven challenging decades of continuous population decline. The reasons for such a plummet in numbers were multiple. High infant mortality, disease brought on by poor diet, a demanding lifestyle, and high emigration tested the people of Mayo’s strength to the limit.
“With giant strides destitution and misery progress — the wants of the people daily and hourly progress — the cries for succour and assistance go forth, and ere long, even now, the distress of the poor has attained a degree fearful to contemplate. Turn to what quarter we may, the same dismal tale is told to us — in every direction we see countenance wan with care and hunger. In a like condition are the inhabitants of the rural districts, and we find that parishes — Annadown for instance, which used to supply the markets of Galway so abundantly, after supporting its own people in comfort, are now reduced to a most pitiable condition. There indeed, some of the landlords, at least those who reside at home, have stepped forward seasonably to the relief of their fellow creatures, and headed by the Cregg family, ever remarkable for their benevolence, seem resolved to do their duty.”
The 1880s was a watershed in the history of sport in Ireland. Soccer's All-Ireland governing body was established in Belfast in 1880 and during that decade the sport began to spread out from Ulster and scatter throughout the island. The first set of rules for rugby were drawn up in England in 1845, but the sport did not gain much traction in Ireland until the 1880s, a mere 10 years after the first game was played on Irish soil. The sport’s managing body, the Irish Rugby Football Union, was founded in 1879. The Golfing Union of Ireland was established in 1891, and though the game was being played in Ireland prior to that date, it had not attracted a Mayo following. The first golf club in Connacht was only founded in 1892. In 1884, the Gaelic Athletic Association was formed with a view to promoting Ireland’s native games. All of these sports have grown to become extremely popular in Mayo today but one sport, once arguably the most popular organised sport in the county, has virtually disappeared.
It is three years to the month since the signing into law by President Higgins of the Local Government Reform Act 2014. The act abolished Ireland’s 80 town councils as part of a range of measures designed to reform local administration. Three of those town councils operated in the Mayo towns of Ballina, Westport, and in the county capital, Castlebar. The debate continues as to whether the abolition of an entire tier of local government was largely beneficial or harmful. It may take longer than three years for any lasting effects to register themselves.
A ceremony to mark the official naming of the Emily Anderson Concert Hall will take place in the Aula Maxima Upper at NUI Galway on Thursday, 23 February 2017. Emily Anderson was NUI Galway’s first Professor of German and to this day is internationally recognised for her achievements in translating the letters of Mozart and Beethoven into English and in so doing offering invaluable insights into their work. She is also distinguished for her intelligence work with the British Government during World War II.
The festive period is behind us and already people’s thoughts are turning to what the political year ahead will bring, and already we have drama in the North and the usual post-Christmas crisis in the hospitals.
As the Dáil and Seanad return after a long summer break, Insider has been mulling over the state of Irish politics. Not that it has been a quiet summer of course, with a number of issues disturbing the peace.