It's a long day's journey into the night as the Councillors finally calve

Councillor Tiarnan Walsh walks with the determined sweeping steps of a man who has had to overcome many an obstacle on his farm in northeast Galway. "She didn't calf yet," Tiernan said as he swung in the door of the County Council Chamber in Galway.

It was gone past midnight on Tuesday. He had made a number of trips in and out. We told him that it was the wrong time of the year anyhow - why hadn't he arranged the business between the bull and the cows a bit better.

"There is no use crying about spilt milk," Tiarnan said, "we'll have to watch her all night."

All night it nearly was.

The "reviewed" Galway County Development Plan was not finally "calved' until about haif past three in the morning. The County Development Plan is the blueprint for ail planning matters in the county and it has to be reviewed every two and a half years. It is becoming an ever more complicated task with the rising population, value of Iand and many other factors. Galway County Councillors started at 1 l.30a.m. on Tuesday and didn't finish until well after 3 o'clock the following morning.

The County Councillors had been mulling on it, chewing on it, eating it up and regurgitating all day Tuesday. Finally in the wee small hours of Wednesday they spat it out.

But it was no gentle walk through the rneadow. Earlier, the Planning Director in Galway County Council, Paul Ridge has been pinned to the fence. "Paul, could you define a farm," he was asked by one Councillor. who went bogging in the details.

Well, I once heard a definition of a farmer as "a man outstanding in his own field." But Paul is a proper man and he did not get into that sort of "seafóid."

All of this came up because of discussion about the rights of sons and daughters of farming families to build houses on their parents' lands.

Somebody said that a local person had been turned down because the planning office decided that the farm in question wasn't really a "farmed" farm. This talk nearly caused "míle murder' and Councillor Fidelma Healy-Eames bounced off her chair in wonderment asking in the process if it was now the case that people in the planning office were defining what constituted farms.

Sometime before one in the morning, With no calf in sight, there was another real hint of "míle murder" when two bulls of men glanced at each other across the political fence. "Don't start now you," Councillor Séamus Walsh (Fianna Fáil) glowered at Councillor Willie Burke (Independent). "l'Il start whenever I like," inswered WilIie thrusting his head forward.

Maybe it was just as well there were no sandwiches available during the last break tor tea. If them lads were fed, they would jump over the moon - not alone the tables n Galway County Council.

Peace was restored. Tiernan arrived in tifter another tnip to the "field." "She didn't calve yet."

It was on a night like that you really needed your neighbour ... local lads who would give a hand. But what use talking if local lads coundn't build houses. Planning Director - the learned Paul Ridge - said there was no use in fencing local lads in. he knew what a local lad was. He didn't want them to be defined in kilometres by Councillors.

But the Councillors said that they wanted people in the countryside to be able to build houses within 8 kilometres, or 5 miles, of the place where they were from ... and that would be in all directions from that spot. Tiarnan, after coming in from the field, asked what was all this about.

"Do I detect here that there is distrust between the Councillors and the management of this Council," Tiarnan said. "And why wouldn't we have trust among each other. What's in it for anybody not to follow the letter and the spirit of what is decided in the County Development Plan?"

Nobody answered - they were tired. But there is a wider locality the rural communities of Galway.

Our emigrants had an entitlement to be considered for planning permission in their own locality at home. Now, the Councillors wanted to firmly enshrine the same planning entitiement for their families - even if these family members were born abroad.

Willie Burke made doubting sounds about this. But Séamus Walsh, bushy-tailed as ever was alive to the movements in the field in the early hours. "Ah ha, what about the Irish diaspora now," says Walsh. "Look, we welcome people from many countries here now," said Tom Reilly from Tuam. "Surely, we are willing to make provision in the planning system for the children of emigrants from our own country who want to come back here?"

But Dermot Connolly (Sinn Féin) saw something else in the long grass. "Foneign workers are entitled to their rights ... what about the Gama workers in Tynagh."

It was pusing deep into the night - lads may have been misinterpreting a littie. Tiarnan Walsh said he coundn't interpret the Irish being spoken by Seosamh Ó Cuaig and Seán Ó Tuainisg when Irish language conditions were watered down sometime after one in the moming.

At two in the moming, with dark circles around evenybody's eyes, they removed the "imaginery" circle's around villages and towns. These were put in three years ago with the hope that development would be encouraged inside the circle with a radius of 300 to 500 metres. In the light of day it was seen it wouldn't work. In the middle of the night they disapeared.

But Councillor Michael Connolly had one last shot at it ... he went ail the way up to the management table and said that a "half moon" sort of shape should be put around Brownesgrove and Ballyglunin you could develop inside the "half moon"

Was this a noctumal dream? Other Councillors were shouting. Why would you put in a "half moon" after removing a circle? The move didn't work!

Whatever sort of moon was shining outside then seemed to affect evenybody. Tieman arnived at twenty past three. "She calved!"

There is was - the revised Galway Development Plan .... the planning Bible for County Galway until 2009 a new calf, a new animal, neady to go into the bright light of day and regulate the fields of Galway.

Is there a case for organising things on the farm so that calves arrive in a more organised way?

Yes - probably.

Is there a case for organising things in the County Council so that the County Development Plan "calves" in a more organised way?

Yes - certainly!

Mairtín Ó Catháin An Curadh Connachtach 28/7/2006