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Coalition negotiations like a slow bicycle race

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Shake on it...Michael Martin and Enda Kenny before a TG4 election debate – but will they have anything to shake on this time?

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

Dickensian scholars might view the interminable talks on the formation of a new Government as the Irish political version of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce.

That was the amazing fictional court case that featured in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. Nobody could remember when the proceedings started and nobody was quite sure if they would every end. They continued day after weary day after weary day.

We are told that the pace of talks should ‘accelerate’ this week when Micheál Martin and Enda Kenny meet after the Dáil again fails to nominate a Taoiseach.

But it’s not like Usain Bolt is going to turn up on the plinth to give the whole thing a bit of zip; this slow bicycle race will continue.

The unthinkable option, of course, is a Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil coalition. There’s been some talk in the past few days of a partnership government, as opposed to a coalition government.

What is the difference? Well partnership seem to provide for Ministers from both parties so it’s essentially a coalition by another name.

At this moment in time, it looks like Fianna Fáil won’t buy into it.

The upside of a Grand Coalition – by whatever name you care to call it – is that it will provide a government with the potential to last a good deal of the five-year term. It will also bring two parties together that will be close together in terms of ideology.

If the economy does well, it is not inconceivable that both of the big parties could do well.

The downside for the two parties involved is electoral vulnerability. If the economy falters at all, they will let the main opposition party in and that will be Sinn Féin.

That said, Sinn Féin has a lot of growing up to do and will not attract widespread support unless enough people are convinced the party can act responsibly in government.

Why the party slid back towards the end of this year’s campaign can be attributed to doubt by waverers about the party’s credentials on the economy. The person who was lacking in that regard was Gerry Adams. The party will need a change in leadership to mount a credible and serious challenge to enter government.

But Sinn Féin would make gains in any scenario where it was the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, in particular, could find itself very vulnerable as the (slightly) smaller party in government, and one whose members felt betrayed by it going into government with its traditional adversary.

While we are at it, let’s kill the myth (and cliché) that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Three snapshots to show the shifting sands of time

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Border poll...Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Three snapshots of Ireland in the here and now -and none of them have to do with Covid-19. But each of them, in its own way, shows the shifting sands of politics and, indeed, of society.

1. The North

On Tuesday the UK foreign secretary Liz Truss announced she would be introducing new legislation which will radically re-engineer the Northern Protocol.

The Protocol is a bit of a tough nut to crack when it comes to explaining. It is essentially the rules that have been laid down to allow the North stay in the EU’s common market.

Goods originating from the North and being exported to the EU (and obviously the South is in the EU) do not have to have any checks. But goods coming over from Britain to Northern Ireland have had to be checked to comply with EU standards.

Of course, that added layers of bureaucracy especially for foods and medicines. And an effective border down the Irish Sea.

About 85 percent of the goods coming into the North from the UK stay in the North. But if they allowed all goods to come in without checking that would make the North a handy backdoor to bring sub-par goods and materials into the EU.

Politicians down here have said the North has the best of both worlds: access to the EU markets while being part of the UK. But it just has not worked out like that, whether that’s a psychological block or a real one, I’m not sure.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Election drama – but now the long stalemate begins

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Winners...Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill triumphant in the North.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sinn Féin’s historic victory in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections was accompanied by the slick choreography the party has perfected when it comes to celebrating its wins.

The party leaders are treated like rockstars when they arrive into count centres. Selfies are not used to take photographs of yourself. They are used as vehicles to allow other photographers to take photographs of you taking a selfie.

You can’t quibble though at the triumph. Over 250,000 people voted for Sinn Féin in the Assembly elections.

That might have been an increase of only one per cent and the party, with 27 seats, may not have increased its number of seats in the 90-seat assembly- but it was the relative position of Sinn Féin to others that matter.

The DUP saw its vote share tumble by 6.7 per cent to 21.3 percent and lost three seats, bringing its total to 25.

More pertinently for Sinn Féin its great nationalist rival, the SDLP, had a lousy election. It lost four seats, and saw its vote share slip by almost three per cent to nine per cent, relegating it to the fifth biggest party in the Assembly.

The other big shift in the election was the surge in Alliance seats. It more than doubled its representation to 17 (from eight) and saw an increase of almost five points in its vote share.

It was a triumph for Naomi Long and her party, and showed that Alliance has really extended its base beyond soft unionism to take in those (including a growing constituency in the nationalist community) who no longer subscribe to identity politics.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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

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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

Chasm of distrust remains between both communities

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Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill: potential Northern Ireland First Minister.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

If you look at the text of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement you will find that the bulk of the most bitter, the most divisive, and the most contentious issues were not really dealt with.

They were ‘parked’ to be dealt with at a later date. The biggest issue, of course, was decommissioning. That took seven long, exhausting and arduous years to sort out. But sorted out it was in 2005 when Séanna Walsh read out a statement from the IRA saying it was standing down.

Many of the other disputes have never really been sorted out – flags and emblems, the Irish language, North-South institutions – and are still ‘live’. Politics in the North is still defined by identity and the Tribe, with the preponderance of people voting along green or orange lines (although in less volumes with each succeeding election).

So many things have not been sorted out. There is still a chasm of distrust between both communities. Brexit has exacerbated divisions.

All those fudges are now almost a quarter of a century in existence without being sorted. Yes, it is imperfect. But it’s still infinitely better than what went before.

I had a quick check back to see the last time I wrote a substantive piece about the North in this column. It was April 2020, a full two years ago, and that was to mark the passing of John Hume, a colossus figure in Northern politics. The situation may be imperfect but that trumps violence every day of the week.

The Assembly elections this week might result in a historic shift in the North. For some that should have meant the end of sectarian-driven politics and a politics-as-usual scenario, where day-to-day issues such as cost-of-living, health services, education and infrastructure were debated.

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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