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Begrudgery shouldn’t be a national pastime

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Eamonn Coghlan... positivity shouldn’t be a negative.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

One of the great Irish books of the last few decades is one that is sadly no longer in print. It was written by the great Aran Islands journalist Breandán Ó hEithir and was entitled: The Begrudger’s Guide to Irish Politics.

A begrudger, said Ó hEithir, was driven by a deep and abiding doubt about “our ability to run our own affairs as well as others might run them for us”.

Of course, he also reckoned they were the largest group in Irish society.

If they were the largest group back in the 1980s, they have probably grown in numbers since.  Begrudgery seems to be the default trigger for just about anybody who isn’t a Government politician.

When things were going very well during the Noughties the thing to say was that there were those who begrudged success and hated seeing Irish people being successful. That was usually said by people who weren’t paying enough tax and justifying it.

Aha, you have noticed! The malaise also extends to journalism.

You can bet your bottom dollar it does. The ink of most political journalists in Dublin is coloured by an all-embracing bleak black of negativity.

That goes too for opposition spokespeople. Fianna Fáil have been going on about being a responsible opposition, of giving praise where praise is due. That translates into the very odd word of welcome, quickly followed by a battery of qualifiers and negatives.

As for the rest? For Sinn Féin and the battery of smaller parties and indepedents, there is nothing more important than a whinge.

So is the Government right? Not at all. It’s U-turned, it has betrayed, it has not lived up to promises. It can reek of arrogance. It can have a tin ear to the needs of the people. It too plays the partisan game.

So they are all wrong then? Isn’t that the ultimate begrudgery? No, they are all right some of the time but the default mode of Irish politics is to complain. Of course, we are not unique in it but we do it better than anybody else.

Let’s put it this way. Could you imagine any political party in Ireland running a campaign like Obama’s 2008 election campaign, advocating a positive message, the art of the possible and ‘Yes We Can’.

Sure, US politics is as partisan as it comes but there is still a bit of space for positivity. That space seems to have become smaller and smaller in Ireland.

I’m writing this in the picturesque village of Laragh in Co Wicklow ahead of a quick climb of Lognacoille and maybe all that is colouring my mood.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Guard changes but tough calls wait for another day

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Changing of the guard...Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sic transit gloria mundi. I used to love using that expression when I was a student. For obvious reasons. A. It had the right degree of pretension for a show-off like myself. B. It actually means something.

It should be engraved on the headstone of every politician. Enoch Powell had another way of saying it; all political careers end in failure.

Anyway we have another changing of the guard on December 17, where Micheál Martin steps down as Taoiseach and Leo Varadkar steps in. It might equally be described as moving the deckchairs on the Titanic, if you are an opposition TD.

Unless my political judgement is completely off beam, I think it will be Martin’s last spin as Taoiseach – making him shortest-lived Fianna Fáil Taoiseach, although, in fairness, Albert Reynolds did not last all that much longer than he.

Strangely enough he will remain as Fianna Fáil leader. For how long? Indefinitely. Martin has managed to be a better survivor than many of his predecessors. When he was elected party leader in 2011, many predicted he and the party would be gone by the next election. They weren’t.

Then they said he would be the first Fianna Fáil leader never to be Taoiseach. Then they said he would be gone as Fianna Fáil leader around the time he stood down as Taoiseach. He isn’t and there is a strong chance now he will lead his party into the next general election.

Why? Because there is not a ready-made natural-born Fianna Fáil leader among its parliamentary corps. Not yet, anyway.

If he survives to 2025 he will be actually the second longest serving Fianna Fáil leader after Eamon de Valera, outlasting Bertie Ahern and Charlie Haughey and Sean Lemass.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Greens set the bar high on seats for next local elections

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Eamon Ryan...brave ambitions.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

There we all were thinking the Greens were going to repeat what happened a decade ago and lose most, or all, of their seats in the next election. But then Eamon Ryan told the party’s annual convention last weekend that he wanted the party to grow and increase seats.

He even put a target on it – to double its number of council seats from 50 to 100 at the next local elections in 2024.

It’s a brave claim and there will be some that say the only target we see is the one on Eamon Ryan’s back.

We all know the fate of smaller parties in government in Ireland. And none should know it better than the Greens. They won six seats in 2007 and lost them all in 2011.

Of course, there were extenuating circumstances. They were unlucky enough to be tacked onto a Fianna Fáil party which had pumped up the economy to bulbous levels in the decade before they went into coalition together.

The only party to buck the trend for a smaller party coming out of coalition was the Progressive Democrats in 2002. However, that was only a reprieve; they were s annihilated in the following election in 2007.

Ryan’s argument is that there is always a percentage of the population who will back Green first and it is growing. That is true. But the reality is it’s not ten per cent of the population yet – it is closer to five. And that five per cent is concentrated in middle class urban areas.

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

Only sure thing in politics is nothing stays the same

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Galway in the 1950’s – how different is this to today.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

In less than a month’s time we will witness a first in Irish politics – the first instance of a Government which rotates its Taoiseach half way through the term.

It was due to happen on December 15, but it has been pushed back to allow Micheál Martin have his last hurrah – a final Summit in Brussels.

Then Leo Varakdar will come back for his second go – and if the Government lasts a full term, Varadkar’s two stints in the job will use about amount to one full term of five years.

It’s not the first time that a shared Taoiseach has been floated. Dick Spring suggested it to John Bruton in 1994. There was talk of Eamon Gilmore doing it with Enda Kenny before the 2011 general election. Enda Kenny suggested it to Micheál Martin in 2016.

Now it’s happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last time we will see it in the Irish political context – because the political landscape has altered irrevocably.

A majority of voters in Ireland identified with one tribe or another during most of the 20th century. Memories of the revolution and civil war were still fresh. The parties both represented different sections of society (although there were big swatches of common ground). Ireland was rural, isolated, Catholic, conservative. Even in the 1980s, the two big parties still pulled 80 per cent plus of the vote.

We have a WhatsApp group from my class in the Jes in the 1980s. One of the lads recently posted an aerial photography of Galway taken in the the late 1950s. The city of Galway was nothing more than small town.

Shantalla was a new estate on the far outskirts. There was no Cathedral. Taylor’s Hill was hitting open countryside once you got past St Mary’s Terrace. There were open fields leading from Sea Road down to the shore.

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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