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Cabinet reshuffle opts for safety over real surprises

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New dynamic....Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Joan Burton after announcing their new Cabinet.

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

I wrote last week about the perils of predictions – and then went on to predict that the new Cabinet would be announced by the time the column appeared.

How wrong could I be; I should really have known that it never works out like that.

Last week panned out like Tom Crean and Ernest Shackleton heading across the Antarctic. “And on the fifth day, we finally saw it…South Georgia and Pat Rabbitte sloping off into the distance.”

The Coalition now has about 20 months to turn the ship and avoid that massive iceberg that will hit around the spring of 2016.

Is there enough the change of line-up and in the ten-page document on political priorities to avoid a repeat of the drubbing both parties took in the local elections in May?

Naturally, the changes in Labour were more profound. The party has a new leader and a new team. All of the old guard were driven out, even though Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte had some expectations they might be retained.

But Burton (older than both) said the membership has spoken and the class of 2011 needed its day. And so along with deputy leader Alan Kelly, Alex White was also promoted.

It was always a racing certainty that Burton would promote a second woman. The only surprise was that it was Jan O’Sullivan rather than Kathleen Lynch. Time may show that it was a strategic mistake consigning the very able and articulate Rabbitte to the dung heap. But then, if he was retained, Burton would have been accused of having been too conservative.

On the Fine Gael side, those who have no expectations are never disappointed. It’s well known that Kenny is very conservative when it comes to shake-ups and reshuffles.

His experience was tempered by the 1980s when Garret FitzGerald tried to effect a radical reshuffle and it backfired spectacularly, when several Ministers (including health minister Barry Desmond) refused to budge.

There was a feeling that Kenny might not fire anybody, with Alan Shatter’s resignation two months ago an excuse not to act. There was also talk that Michael Noonan visited Kenny after returning from Brussels last week and talked Deenihan back into the starting fifteen (Noonan later denied this).

As it transpired, Deenihan was the only casualty of the ten Fine Gael Ministers. And then he wasn’t exactly fired but demoted to the sub’s bench where a new junior ministry was created for him. He has responsibility for the Diaspora and for the 1916 commemoration which sounds a little bit like Lionel Messi getting the gong for being the best player at the World Cup.

There’s a debate about whether or not reshuffles make any real difference, other than give the incumbent Government a bit of a boost that withers away with time. The problem with radical reshuffles is that they can backfire – sometimes spectacularly.

The obvious example is that of the long knives in January 2011 when Brian Cowen essentially arranged for the resignation of almost all Fianna Fáil members of Cabinet in an attempt to bring in new blood. His close advisers thought it was a great idea.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

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.

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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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Connacht Tribune

Tackling shadowy spectre of gambling at long last

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Salthill's entertainment hot spot of the 1960s and 70s, Seapoint.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The Salthill seafront was about a ten-minute walk from where we lived in Glenard when I was growing up. I can’t remember exactly when I started going to the amusement arcades but I was probably about 14.

At the time there were three or four along the so-called Golden Mile – Salthill Amusements near Western House; Claude Tofts casino in the middle of the drag, and the Silver Dollar, which was just before you turned for the Sacre Coeur Hotel. And then there was Seapoint.

The main attractions for us initially were the snooker tables upstairs in Salthill amusements, the roller disco on the Silver Dollar, and the teenage discos in the Captain’s Deck in Leisureland.

Mostly it was playing the video games – Space Invaders; Asteroids and Pacman. Yet no matter how absorbed you were with the games  you could not help noticing the other half of the arcade.

On that side there were battalions of one-armed bandits and poker machines. This was the early 1980s and I think it was about 10p a go. I think if you got one cherry on the right you won about 20p, and the amount of winnings went up especially if you got three bars in a row.

I’m not saying I never gambled on those machines. I did, although not too often. I remember having one big payout – I think it might have been £20. I was able to buy a ticket for the Dexy’s Midnight Runners concert in Seapoint.

It was July. Gino was actually number one in the charts that very week and all the Northerners were down in Salthill to escape the Orange marches.

We hung around the amusements a bit as teenagers. After a while, you began to recognise the regulars, the daily penitents. They would come in every afternoon and evening and spend hours sitting on a high school with a bucket of coins beside them, playing either the one-armed bandits or the poker machines.

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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