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Connacht Tribune

Big questions on the horizon for the political year ahead

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President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar...election tests for one or both?

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

It’s the big political question as we head out into 2018 – will there be a general election before the year is out? Or will this year’s poll of the people be a contest for the Aras instead? There is one certain referendum – on abortion – for 2018; throw in a possible Presidential election; likely plebiscites in Dublin and Cork; and slightly slimmer chances of several other referendums.

Add the fact that there is always the lurking possibility of a general election – and there may be plenty of opportunities to visit a ballot box near you in the coming year.

Let’s start with the odds on a general election – and 2018 seems slightly more likely than 2019.

For one thing, the confidence and supply agreement comes to an end at Budget time in October.

If it’s not renewed the Government will face a period of drift and uncertainty, in which the rug can be pulled from under it at any time.

There are always the possibilities of ‘events’, or opinion polls (bad or good), or an irretrievable breakdown in relations – either between Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance, or between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

But against all that you have to look at the bigger picture.

Irish politics is still fragmented almost a decade after the crash and the two biggest parties are struggling to restore their previous stature.

Opinion polls suggest that Fine Gael is stronger at present but my own instinct is that Fianna Fáil will make much larger gains in the next election, unless there is a political calamity about to befall it, or unless Leo Varadkar proves to be the most popular, greatest, enigmatic, lovable Taoiseach ever.

In either event, I would agree with the general view that neither party will be strong enough to form a coalition government on its own – unless one decides to bit the bullet and jump into bed with Sinn Féin.

And so the most likely prospect for after the next election is the Third Way, the new formula that both parties have found to avoid going into coalition with each other, and to keep their identities strong.

Both know that this looks the more likely scenario. But then voters might take a dim view of the arrangement into the long term and punish one of the two big parties – making them more reluctant to return to such an agreement.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Gort set for transformation under regeneration plans

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Gort...set for major revitalisation.

The revitalisation of the town of Gort received another major shot in the arm last week when it was one of 27 landmark projects to share in the latest €21.5 million Rural Regeneration Development Fund.

The Gort Inse Guaire project received €798,000 towards the re-design of the Market Square and town centre streets, as well as reinvigorating the Canon Quinn Park greenspace in the town centre.

The Gorgeous Gort Forum – the representative body for all local community groups, clubs and organisations which drove this application – welcomed ‘the wonderful news’.

“We thank the Minister for approving funding for our town, and all the team in Galway County Council who we supported in developing and submitting this application and the local representatives who supported this application.

“We also thank the over 40 organisations, clubs and groups in our community, who we represent, that provided invaluable letters of support’, said Gorgeous Gort Forum chairperson Justin McDermott.

The Forum supported Galway County Council in the development and submission of this application.  This included organising letters of support from over 40 various clubs, organisations, and groups in Gort which they represent.

The group also facilitated meetings between Galway County Council and key community stakeholders, and worked with local elected representatives, including Minister Anne Rabbitte, Sean Canny TD, Ciaran Cannon TD and local councillors including Joe Byrne, PJ Murphy, and Geraldine Donoghue, to lobby the minister on behalf of the community.

The news was warmly welcomed from all fronts, with local TD Ciaran Cannon describing it as an ambitious investment in Gort, building on a very strong community spirit in the town.

And his fellow Galway East TD Sean Canney particularly welcomed the work on Canon Quinn Park, which he described as ‘an underutilised yet vital greenspace within the centre of the town’.

“In order to capitalise on this invaluable resource, the park requires diversification and redesign to improve usages, discourage anti-social behaviour and provide a green lung for the town centre,” he said.

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Award-winning Galway Traveller Movement reveals impact of Covid on its education programme

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Galway Traveller Movement Education Project Worker Anne Marie Stokes (front) with (from left) Deirdre Mortell, CEO Rethink Ireland; Declan Black, Managing Partner, Mason Hayes & Curran LLP and Minister Joe O’Brien at the announcement of the €1.2m Engage & Educate Fund awardees.

The Galway Traveller Movement has revealed the impact Covid-19 has had on its efforts to ensure access to education for all – with a lack of technology making it particularly difficult to accommodate home schooling.

GTM’s Education Coordinator Aisling Egan said that the pandemic added to the challenges for the group, and for Traveller families generally who face unique barriers with literacy and language issues.

“We linked in with these families, supplied the technology needed and offered any help that we possibly could in supporting them through the pandemic”, said Aisling.

“We’re only now seeing the huge disadvantage that COVID-19 has created for Traveller children – but with projects like ours in place, hopefully we can be there to deal with those issues at the very early stages and it doesn’t have a negative impact on the rest of their school experience,” she added.

The GTM was last week announced as one of the recipients of the €1.2m Engage & Educate Fund – one of five organisations receiving grants and non-financial supports packages in the largest ever financial pot since the project began.

The Galway Traveller Movement’s education programme has worked with over 100 children in Galway City and County since its establishment.

GTM provides assistance to families who have had negative experiences in school, breaking the cycle of community members leaving school and empowering Travellers to progress with their education and succeed.

The project aims to reach potential early-school leavers at a primary and post-primary level.

The project operates creative and culturally specific workshops in consultation with Traveller youth, that build self-esteem and belonging.

The members also work with policymakers locally and nationally to influence change with the view to ensuring equality outcomes for the Traveller community.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Galway’s Living Bog will become showpiece for environmental and educational visits

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A picture taken in pre-Covid days replicating the old ways of turfcutting at Carrownagappul Bog with the ‘slaner’ Tommy Cunningham firing the sods up the ‘spreader’ Paul Connaughton. Now the bog is set for a new lease of life as a national visitor attraction.

A STRETCH of bog in North-East Galway is set to become a major showpiece in terms of environmental, tourism and educational visits, according to the leader of the local group involved in the project.

Former TD and Minister of State, Paul Connaughton, told the Connacht Tribune this week that the 3,000-acre Carrownagappul Bog in Mountbellew was now regularly attracting TV crews from all over Europe to film what was going on there.

According to the NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service), the bog has been described as ‘one of the most beautiful in Europe’ with the potential to become one of Ireland’s foremost bogs to visit due to its unique flora, fauna, folklore and location.

Chairman of the local Carrownagappul Bog Committee, Paul Connaughton, said that the site was just opening up for a whole series of educational tours early in 2020 when the Covid pandemic intervened.

“There is however no doubt in my mind at all that over the coming years that the Carrownagappul Bog Project will be attracting visitors not just in Ireland but from different parts of the world as well.

“The project is very special in that it involved the co-operation of local people whose families had cut turf in the bog for years but who are now committed to seeing this project develop into a local tourism and educational hub,” said Paul Connaughton.

Back in the early Summer of 2011, there was close to a confrontation between local turfcutters and the NPWS when an order was issued to cease cutting immediately on the bog.

Eventually a compromise was reached in which turf was allowed to be cut for that year before a more long-term compensation package was agreed (€1,500 pa for 15 years) while alternatively a number of cutters were offered an alternative bog site to cut turf, close by.

“Already the project is employing five people and we can this figure growing over the coming years with second and third-level colleges across the region and country involved in visits to the site.

“In total, we estimate that between the compensation scheme and improvement works carried out to the roadways through the bogs – as well as the construction of two boardwalks – that spending so far has been in the region of a half-million euros,” said Paul Connaughton.

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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