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Albert Reynolds – a man of peace and man of risks

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Former British Prime Minister John Major chatting with John Hume and Martin McGuinness in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook with the Reynolds family for the funeral mass of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

There was a marked contrast between this week’s State Funeral for former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and the last one, that for his predecessor as Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey.

Haughey was buried with the full military honours accorded to a former Taoiseach but his death in 2006 came at a time when his star had – to put it mildly – waned.

With all the Tribunal revelations about his personal finances – and the live allegation, never really proven, that he had dipped into the funds raised for Brian Lenihan Senior’s liver transplant – he was persona non grata to all but the most ardent Fianna Fáil supporter.

There’s a televised drama on Haughey set to be released this season. And certainly within Fianna Fáil there has been an attempt to revive some parts of the reputation of this very complex, convoluted and tainted politician. Delivering a fierce apologia at his graveside Bertie Ahern (who has also fallen by the wayside since then) argued that posterity would be kinder to Haughey’s achievements.

That remains to be seen – but don’t hold your breath.

Reynolds was different. He had been no stranger to controversy during his career. And he had some very notable achievements to his name, principally the Downing Street Declaration. Yet, he never made the same impact as some of his illustrious forbears or successors.  He didn’t have the charisma of Haughey or the populism of Bertie. He wasn’t a particularly engaging speaker. His tenure as leader of Fianna Fáil and as taoiseach was really short – less than three years.

In the 20 years since he resigned as Taoiseach, Reynolds – like his British counterpart at the time John Major – had just become a little forgotten about. Of course, Alzheimer’s had taken an increasing grip in recent years, removing Reynolds from the public eye.

So it was nice to see this week that the public amnesia was not a permanent one, that many of Reynolds best achievements were remembered. It was also nice to see that sports supporters – often the most cynical – were very respectful to his memory at the All Ireland semi-final in Croke Park last Sunday. I couldn’t imagine Haughey or Ahern getting the same treatment.

There were some very good pieces and assessment written about Albert in the last week and I’ll focus for a second on just two in my own paper, The Irish Times, each given a different perspective.  The former journalist and newscaster Sean Duignan was Reynolds’ press secretary when he was Taoiseach and his book on those two and a half years – One More Spin on the Merry Go Round – is among the finest books on Irish politics ever written.

He gave a very perceptive summation of Reynolds whose disposition was essentially that of a gambler. Politicians are cautious by nature and prefer taking the path of least resistance when making a decision. Look at Obama’s wavering this summer and you see the classic case of a politician paralysed by all the negative permutations that might flow from taking a tough and unpalatable decision.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Budget throws up history of drama on Dáil’s longest day

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The longest day...Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It’s the biggest set-piece of the year in Irish politics, the one day of the political calendar when the Dáil chamber is full to the brim. And no matter how much the body politic is bludgeoned, Budget Day remains special.

There are some years in which the budgets are pass-remarkable but, then again, there are some years in which the budgets are just bloody remarkable.

In modern times none can really touch the drama of Charlie McCreevy’s announcement of decentralisation in December 2003. If it were to be done today, people would nod all round and say that’s a sensible enough proposal. But back then the notion of tens of thousands of public servants making an exodus from Dublin to the provinces was unfathomable and unthinkable.

The 2007 Budget was something else to behold. It was the middle of the Celtic Tiger and there were concerns that the economy was overheating to a point that the boiler was about to explode – even if nobody fully realised it at the time. More critically there was an election to be won.

At the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis before the election Bertie Ahern read out a shopping list of giveaways, harking back to the infamous Fianna Fáil manifesto of 30 years beforehand.

Ahern had been before the Planning Tribunal to explain political contributions and hand-outs he himself had got from his friends. The feelgood budget helped divert some of the heat away – and ultimately, it was enough to win the party a historic third term in government.

By the following spring, Ahern was gone and by that summer everything had ‘come to a shuddering halt’, to employ the phrase of the late Brian Lenihan Junior. Giveaway budgets tend to come back and bite you in the nether regions.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

NDP reheats old dishes – while kicking other cans down the road

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan at the launch of this week's National Development Plan in Cork.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The new National Development Plan may be 180 pages long – but the vast majority of the 220 TDS and Senators would have confined their reading to one or two pages. Digested down, they read only what was relevant to their own neck of the woods – whether or not that school or hospital was being funded into the future, or if that long-promised road was going to get the go-ahead.

Even when it’s €165 million over a decade, when you boil it down, it never seems to add up to all that much when the local components are grouped together.

So what is the West getting? There’s the Moycullen bypass, but that’s happening already. The ring road around Galway is included, but that’s been talked about for over a decade now with no guarantee it will be finished within the lifetime of this plan.

There’s a new Emergency Department and ward block included for University Hospital Galway, which will be a big investment, and a welcome one. It’s likely that one of the three new elective hospital facilities under Sláintecare will be established in Galway, which will be a boost to the city and the region.

NUI Galway will also get a regeneration of its library under the plan.

There’s no such luck for the Western Rail Corridor. After a plethora of studies, the can is being kicked down the road again with yet another study.

The NDP says: “A Strategic Rail Review has recently been launched which will examine all aspects of the inter-urban and inter-regional rail network including decarbonising the railway, the feasibility of higher speeds, increased capacity, improved connectivity to the North-West and the enhancement of the Dublin to Mullingar railway line and the creation of a strategic plan for freight. The Western Rail corridor has the potential to revitalise the West of Ireland and the Strategic rail review will examine how it would be delivered.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Budget’s impending arrival puts focus on real politics

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar...news of help for house-buyers

World of Politics with Harry McGee

It has had the makings of a highly unusual political week – a week that for once seemed to be about policy and actual political things rather than personality crises and stabs in the back.

Because we are reaching the foothills of the Budget which is now only little more than a fortnight away.

We already know that there will be increases in pensions and in welfare, plus some kind of tax concession – probably be a widening of the income tax and universal social charge bands.

Most of those gains will be wiped out by inflation, the mercury of which has been steadily rising this year.

Surprise, surprise, we also heard some from Leo Varadkar who reminds you a bit of the old slogan from The Irish Press of old: First with the News.

On a ministerial visit to Washington DC, the Tánaiste said a help-to-buy scheme for first-time homeowners is set in the upcoming budget. It was due to expire at the end of the year but now looks like it will go to the end of 2022.

Which is good news for first-time buyers for it’s a very generous incentive, much more attractive than the £3,000 relief from stamp duty that was available in my day (but then, house prices were only a fraction of what they are now a quarter of a century ago).

Help-to-buy allows first-time buyers to claim relief from income tax over the previous four years and can get as much as ten percent of the purchase price of the house. It is maxed out at €30,000.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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