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Covid 19 might finally force parties into grand alliance

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Grand idea .... Coronavirus crisis may force Micheál Martin, Leo Vardakar and Mary Lou McDonald into agreement.

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

Fianna Fáil’s first parliamentary party after the general election was a strange and unreal affair, occurring five days after the poll by which stage the party’s reduced circumstances were apparent to one and all. For four hours, the 38 TDs met in the basement of Leinster House – but what was striking was the calm and the lack of raised voices.

There was no open rebellion nor retribution, nor deep-seated opposition to the decision.

There was some criticism, of course, particularly at the exclusion of Sinn Féín, but they came from expected quarters – known critics of the Fianna Fáíl leader. That formed only a tiny sliver of the meeting.

And it ended with leader Micheál Martin being given an unopposed mandate to try and form a government with any party other than Sinn Féin.

“Nobody criticised Micheál really. Nobody criticised the disastrous campaign we had. We were operating on the basis that we had won the election rather than lost it. It was as if none of that had happened,” observed one TD ruefully afterwards.

Viewed in the cold light of day, the election had been a disaster for Fianna Fáil. Instead of gaining its targeted ten extra seats, it had lost seven – and the popular vote to Sinn Féin. The questions from 2011 cropped up again, of a party that was struggling for relevancy.

By any stretch, Fianna Fáil had a disastrous campaign. Its messages were hard to decipher; it was slow to react to the pension anomaly – and it performed an inexplicable mid-campaign flip-flop on rent freeze which looked awful.

Instead of being seen as the agent of change, the party was seen as part of the government, thanks in part to confidence and supply.

Micheál Martin had a very poor outing and struggled in most of the debates – and the more trenchantly he tried to down Mary Lou McDonald the more her star rose.

What perplexed some colleagues was that, even after the horse had bolted, Martin continued to attack Sinn Féin at every opportunity although the campaign was over.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Ireland’s waterways are not getting fair treatment

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Controversy...the entrance to Mutton Island.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The early years of my life as a reporter in The Connacht Tribune revolved a lot around water pollution – even though I did not realise its full import at the time.

One of the big running stories in the Tribune during my three years there was a protracted political wrangle over the Mutton Island wastewater treatment centre.

The row split the City Council. One faction wanted the secondary treatment facility to be built as quickly as possible.

The immediate irritant was a phenomenon known as the “Claddagh Pong” which occurred whenever there was fine weather, or when there was a neap tide, or when the water levels were low.

The other side did not want it built in Mutton Island at all. They said it would ruin the island and its historic lighthouse, that the causeway would be clogged by lorry traffic, and a better solution would be to run the sewerage system out to near the City Dump on Carrowbrowne, where a secondary treatment facility could be built.

That row sucked up so much energy and so much time and caused so much conflict.

The context behind it all was this. Raw sewage was being discharged from the city into Galway Bay. At the time, around 1990, the population was about 60,000. That was a disgrace and a scandal.

Unsurprisingly, the faecal coliform readings in the Bay at the time were sky high. When people went swimming in Salthill or Blackrock, they were essentially having a dip in the sewer.

Over 30 years later, the problem in Galway city might have been finally sorted but the same can’t be said for all population centres in the county.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Bleak January beckons if we lose the Christmas plot

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Micheal Martin.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harry.mcgee@gmail.com

This coronavirus is like a drunk leaving a bar; the minute we think it has finally left the premises, the doors swing open and it walks in again. Earlier this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke of a fourth wave coursing across Europe – and it’s affecting us, even more than anybody else.

That has spooked just about everybody.

For months we have been patting ourselves in the backs for being the best in class in Europe. Our vaccination rate of 93 to 94 per cent of everybody over the age of twelve is the highest in Europe by a considerable distance.

Yet, the number of infections here has skyrocketed in recent weeks, and with it the number of people in hospital and ICU.

When National Public Health Emergency Team forecasters gave their worst possible scenario to the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid on Monday night, they were talking of up to 12,000 cases a day.

Even with a much lower number of cases that require hospitalisation or Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admission, that is still scarifying.

How the hell is that happening?

There are a number of reasons. It’s clear that the vast majority of those who are getting very sick are not vaccinated or have suppressed immunity.

The proportion of people born in Eastern Europe who have taken the vaccine is much lower than the rest of the population. There must be reasons for this.

It could stem partly from the folk memory of compulsory vaccines when the States were under USSR control and part of the Eastern Bloc. It could be partly because of suspicions, culturally, of vaccines.

Certainly the uptake in those countries is far lower than in Ireland and those living here may be taking the lead from their compatriots rather than the Irish authorities.

There are other reasons too. Those under the age of twelve are not vaccinated and the Delta variant has been widespread among children – thankfully with few hospitalisations.

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

Sinn Féin’s turn at the wheel is now just a matter of time

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Eoin Ó Broin...strong housing policy.

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

One of the million rules of thumb in politics is that crises are almost weekly occurrences. Someone, somewhere in the Government or party apparatus is mucking things up, or up to no good. When it happens – and it often happens big – it can often look like curtains.

Another rule of thumb is that politicians have an incredible knack of surviving those crises. There’s either an apology or an explanation or some kind of sacrificial lamb – and before you know it, the crisis is over, and the party or Government is out the gap.

The reality underlining all of that is what’s true and real at this moment in time may not be true or real by the time we get to next week.

What is easier to identify in politics is a trend that is long term. At the moment the big ones are the continuing – if fitful – demise of the two bigger parties.

The second is the rise of Sinn Féin.

The ascent of the party has not been as meteoric as the original of the species – Fianna Fáil from 1926 onwards.

The party removed its ban on standing in Irish parliamentary elections in 1986 but did not win its first seat in the Dáil until 1997. It has increased its representation since then but gradually and not always going upwards.

The economic crash of 2010 was crucial in that regard. It certainly helped lift Sinn Féin out of a bit of an electoral doldrum it had found itself in. And over the next decade what happened was that its fortunes could be indirectly related to the crash.

Fianna Fáil was very damaged in 2010. It looked like it might be recovering at least of its former glory in the 2016 elections. But that turned out to be a false dawn and masked the party’s deep-seated faults.

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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