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By-elections win is crucial for Fianna Fail’s revival

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On the canvass….Cllr. Ivan Connaughton, FF Leader Michael Martin, Senator Terry Leyden and former Roscommon Mayor Martin Connaughton, father of Ivan. Photo: David Flynn.

Political World with Harry McGee

It may have slipped under the political radar but there are two by-elections going on right now – and neither have anything to do with John McNulty or the Seanad or the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

In the normal scheme of things, both should be more important. But because of the strange turns of events we sometimes get in politics, both have been inverted in importance and are playing second fiddle to what should be a nonevent.

The one that is of most interest down this part of the world is the by-election in Roscommon-South Leitrim to fill the vacancy left by the election of Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan to the European Parliament.

It’s a strange by-election because, in 18 months, the constituency won’t exist anymore. South Leitrim is being moved in with the rest of Leitrim and Sligo in a new constituency.

And as for Roscommon –Charles Haughey once said of a bottle of wine that there was too much in it for one person drinking but not enough for two.

And the same can be said of Roscommon. It’s too big to be tacked onto some other county to form a natural constituency. And it’s too small to be a constituency of its own these days.

As a result, there have been some very unsuitable marriages of convenience over the years for Roscommon. It was yoked with Longford (across the Shannon in Leinster). As Albert Reynold’s right-hand man Mickey Doherty wryly noted when it came to transferring votes from Roscommon to Longford: “Votes Don’t Swim”.

In more recent years, Leitrim has been split in half to accommodate Roscommon. And now the latest solution is to sacrifice half of East Galway to make a three-seater called Roscommon-Galway.

But the by-election is being fought in the old constituency and it will make for a fascinating – and telling – contest. Interest isn’t particularly high (there’s going to be a low turnout) and there’s a big field of ten. And over the next few days I think they are going to get whittled down to two or three.

For nearly 30 years there was a tradition of the government of the day not winning by-elections. There have been four so far in this Government’s term and it has won three of them (all three were caused by the death of a sitting Fine Gael TD who was succeeded by a close relative).

Two of the by-elections were held in Dublin West. The first was following the death of Brian Lenihan and was won by Labour’s Patrick Nulty. He then stood down (over inappropriate social messages) and the vacancy was won by a left-wing candidate, Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party.

By-elections are a kind of crude weathervane, a bit like an opinion poll. They’re more important to parties that are struggling or rebuilding. A by-election victory can be a real shot in the arm. Lately they have been telling about the rise of Sinn Féin and the so-so performances of Fianna Fáil.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

 

Connacht Tribune

Homeowners living in fear of walls coming tumbling down

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Pyrite and Mica-affected homeowners protest this week at Dublin’s Convention Centre.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Mica and Pyrite are two words that have been lifted from a technical manual or a science textbook to become part of common speech in Ireland in recent years. The presence of both substances in construction materials has had devastating consequences for families from Donegal, Mayo, Limerick, Sligo and other counties. We have seen the TV documentaries and newspaper reports where distraught homeowners show huge cracks in the gables of houses or show a block to the camera that is crumbling in their hands like dust.

Sometimes it looks like somebody has built a giant bungalow-shaped sandcastle that’s going to be washed away by the next spring tide.

We are talking about people’s family homes here. This is where all the life savings – past, present and future – have gone. They (or rather their builders) bought the blocks in good faith, little knowing they were so defective they would endanger their houses, and indeed their own lives.

As Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald remarked in the Dáil this week about these families: “They go to bed at night wondering will their gable end fall down or will the chimney on their neighbour’s house fall down.”

So who is to blame? The companies who manufactured the blocks? The State for not having robust safety standards for the material or manufacture of blocks? The State, again, for not conducting sufficient inspection?

It’s complicated. Like Pyrite, apportioning blame is a tricky business. What is not in doubt is that people who have built family homes cannot live in them anymore, because they are dangerous and falling apart, and it is not their fault. They deserve compensation.

The focus of the Sinn Féin motion this week was for the families to get 100 per cent open-ended compensation. That would mean the State would foot the entire bill to remediate their houses, to rectify the faults, and sometimes to rebuild the whole lot.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Will ‘vaccine bounce’ prove crucial to by-election victory?

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Noel Treacy...a rare by-election win for the ruling party.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

By-elections sometimes mean everything – and sometimes they mean nothing at all. Because often, by the time a general election takes place, they have faded away into the past. They have no impact at all on the national level.

That doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some memorable and crucial by-elections.

Like way back in 1982, when Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, who had a minority government, engineered a coup by nominating a Fine Gael TD, Richard Burke, to be Ireland’s European Commissioner.

Burke was a TD for Dublin West which was a Fianna Fáil stronghold at the time. The idea was the party’s candidate would win the subsequent by-election to give Fianna Fáil a majority in the Dáil.

But things did not go to script. Fine Gael’s candidate was a local businessman named Liam Skelly who bucked the trend by taking the seat in an audacious victory for Fine Gael.

Another significant by-election was in 2010 in Donegal South West. Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher had won a seat in the European Parliament in 2009 and the Fianna Fáil-led government had dilly-dallied over holding an election to fill the vacant seat.

The long-fingering eventually resulted in a court case taken by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty – which he won, amid huge publicity.

The narrative, of course, was that Fianna Fáil were trying to shut him out. By that stage they probably were. Doherty won a massive victory for his party, getting elected in the first count.

I have always believed that this victory alone provided much of the momentum for the big gains Sinn Féin made in the following election.

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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Vaccine programme shows we’ve turned Covid corner

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Success story…Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking with peer vacinator Anne Kennedy and clinical lead Sharon Fahy on his visit the Ballybrit Vaccination Centre in Galway.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Are we near the end? Have we finally got on top of Covid-19 for good?  Certainly, the news coming from the vaccination programme is good. More than good – it’s brilliant. The whole thing has been run so efficiently that we did a double-take at the signage in the centre to make sure they were in English and Irish, and not in German.

In Ireland, governments get very rare victories – but this has been one. More than one million jabs – between 250,000 to 300,000 each week – will have been given out during May alone.

That looks set to continue apace in June – despite the huge disruption caused to the Health Services Executive by the cyberattack from Russian hackers – with well over a million administered then.

At this moment, those in the age range of 40 upwards are getting vaccines or are getting appointments. Of course, there is always uncertainty over supplies (AstraZeneca and Janssen supplies have had periods of being sporadic). But the workhorse of the system, Pfizer BioNTech, has continued to deliver, and at scale.

So it now looks like the Government will meet its target of giving at least one vaccination shot to 82 per cent of the eligible population by the end of June.

Given the challenges involved with a nationwide programme, it is some achievement.

Being over the age of 50, I got my shot last week. It was all done seamlessly: I registered online, got a text a few days later telling me to go to the Aviva two days later.

It was strange lining up with people the same age as you, to see how kind or otherwise age had been to them. It took about two hours and the queuing was a bit like the rigmarole you go through when boarding an aircraft. But it was grand. It was all very smooth.

At this moment, about 18 to 20 percent of the population is fully vaccinated (having got two shots). Most of those are in the older cohort.

You can see the impact that has had. While daily case numbers have stayed stubbornly around the 400 mark, the number of deaths and hospitalisations has fallen.

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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