Dáil Éireann - Volume 68 - 09 June, 1937

Private Business. - Local Government (Galway) Bill, 1937—Fifth Stage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I move that the Bill do now pass.

Mrs. Concannon: My colleagues on these benches who represent County [109] Galway are of opinion that a Bill which so intimately concerns the vital interests of the capital of their constituency as the Local Government (Galway) Bill should not complete its Final Stages through this House without eliciting a word of welcome and congratulation in this House. They have done me the honour to ask me to speak that word in the name of all of them. For, a Chinn Comhairle—and I am sure Deputy Frank Fahy will welcome this assurance—in County Galway the age of chivalry is not dead or, perhaps, it has been revived by the discussion of Article 41 of the Bunreacht and the well-known gallantry of Deputy Stephen Jordan and his comrades— in order to demonstrate to the world that they will stand for no lowering of the status of women — has decreed that on this auspicious occasion woman shall be given not only her traditional right to the last word but the first word. I speak it now. Floreat Galvia! Cathair na Gaillimhe abú!

It may, perhaps, seem strange to the House that the voice which welcomes the restoration of the ancient civic dignity of Galway should yet be so strongly tinged with the Doric accents of the North. But, as a student of Irish history you will remember, as in olden times the attractiveness of Irish life made the Norman invaders, like Deputy Stephen Jordan's forebears, “Hiberniores Hibernicis ipsis,” “more Irish than the Irish themselves,” so the charms of Galway, experienced through 25 happy years, have made a woman, born in one of the severed counties, feel entitled to describe herself as “Galviensior Galviensibus ipsis”—“more Galwegian than the Galwegians themselves”—and so, perhaps, the choice of my colleagues in making me their spokesman—I use the word “man”—is not so unhappily directed.

We, Galway people, have the good habit of looking backward as well as forward and this habit has given us that sense of direction, that justness of focus, that clarity of vision, which we find so useful while we take our bearings for the future from the study of the present Bill and adjust our conception of the reborn City of Galway— [110] the shining city of to-morrow—with our memories of the beloved and romantic Galway City of the past. This habit is ingrained in us as we take our daily walks through Galway streets. There we see how modern progress—well in evidence in the up-to-date business premises of Galway merchants—allies itself, without conflict, with the stately evidences of the past. Lynch's Castle, that lovely old mansion, one of the most perfect gems of the 17th century architecture, still stands—clothed again in the beauty for which it was once famous, by the restoration of an architect of genius. But instead of being a “museum piece,” it houses a thriving branch of an up-to-date and progressive banking establishment, the Munster and Leinster Bank. Through the stately portals of the Browne Doorway, now happily preserved as one of the entrances to Eyre Square, we see, not only the figure of a Galway poet immortalised in Irish limestone by the genius of Albert Power, but the beautiful cut stone facade of a splendid modern hotel, the Great Southern.

The University College, Galway, set in the loveliness of chestnut trees in blossom and copper beeches, not only nurtures the rising generation of our professional and public men and women, and gives them that up-to-date —because Irish Ireland—education which will fit them to play great parts in the Ireland of the future, but it counts among the treasures of its library the old Municipal Records, which tell the story of Galway's civic past, and the old 17th century map, which shows it in all its beauty. What a glorious old city it must have been, and how its daughters and sons must have loved it! The yearning cry of one of them, exiled by the Cromwellians from the familiar streets, still rings out to us across the centuries from the panegyric of his native city enshrined in Archdeacon's Lynch's Life of Doctor Kirwan. “Sentinelled by saints” it rises before us evoked by his words and the delineation of the old map. Here are his words:

“On the western shores of Ireland stand the renowned City of Galway, the metropolis of Connaught, which, a [111] short time ago, was famed for the number of its citizens, and the wealth and enterprise of its merchants. This city was compassed by walls of green marble, flanked with many towers. Within its precincts were mansions of the same green marble, several storeys high, and streets and squares of fine proportions elegantly adorned.”

The walls of green marble, which rise so vividly before the spirit eyes of Archdeacon Lynch in his St. Malo exile, have for the most part fallen down. Their beauty in the remnants which remain is in “the Lion's Tower” and “the Spanish Arch,” and is sadly tarnished with the grime of centuries. For my part, I cannot find it in my heart to lament that these walls have fallen, for through the breaches have entered not the Cromwellians but the Irish people; Gael and Gáll, O'Flaherty and Lynch, O'Connor and Burke, can now sit as brothers by the same council table, and the “City of the Tribes” will evolve, in the modern City of Galway, into the Capital of Irish Ireland. It is in this capacity that its future is assured.

Let us then, who love Galway, and greet with affectionate pride this auspicious event in her history, pledge ourselves to further that conception of Galway's rôle. Let us determine that everything we shall do will work in that direction. When our new harbour is complete, let us see to it that the thousands of visitors we hope to welcome on its thronged docks will find themselves landing not in what Eoin MacNeill once described as a “shabby backyard of the British Empire” but in a live, modern hustling and progressive Irish city. Let the Irish tongue be the first sound that greets their ears. Let the Galway people continue to be their Irish selves, courteous, cordial and natural. Let our streets be kept with civic dignity and pride; let our homes and gardens show the traditional house pride, competence, and taste of the Irish Bean a Tighe. Let our University College be a bright centre of Gaelic culture. Thus will the future of Galway be secured. Mindful [112] of her great past, let Galway look forward to a still greater future; let her lead an Ireland united once more “from Fair Head in Antrim to Mizzen Head in Cork” towards the same future. Floreat Galvia!

Question put and agreed to.