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Cowen puts his nose above the parapet but we still have more questions than answers

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

It’s not often that the armchairs and lounge setting of TG4’s relaxed chat show Cómhrá, or the even more relaxed persona of its presenter Máirtin Tom Sheáinín Mac Donncha, feature on the front pages of the national press.

But TG4’s coup in getting the first interview with Brian Cowen since he stepped down as Taoiseach deservedly won headlines for Baile na hAbhann last week. The programme goes out tonight (Thursday) at 7.30pm and while the TG4 and Raidio na Gaeltacta presenter is no Jeremy Paxman, he still asks Cowen all the questions that a current affairs presenter would and should ask.

They involve questions about what happened on the night of the bank guarantee; his poor record as Taoiseach and as Minister for Finance, the pursuit of wrong policies, and the failure to anticipate a crash.

There will always be the conflicting views on how the Government reacted when the crash took place – the debate between austerity hawks and Keynesian disciples who advocated enough spending to stimulate the economy and grow it out of recession.

In a sense that debate was moot as others (the Troika) had dictated that we had to take our tough medicine or else we would get no money. Politically, it would have been a huge gamble to try and brazen it out and to look for even larger sums from our lenders, or our “international partners” as Cowen called them as if we were somehow equal, which we definitely weren’t (he was always a sucker for awful ‘officialese’).

Ireland got €67 billion as part of a €85 billion package – the other €17bn came from the pension reserve fund. It’s hard to imagine where we would have, or could have, got more from international lenders to pursue a stimulus policy. It’s the classic case of what happens when the Man from Del Monte says No.

We were in a strait-jacket and there’s no two ways about it. The State had little choice but to pursue what it was told to do: “The Troika is correcting our homework,” was Pat Rabbitte’s neat phrase.

The proof of the pudding was that the Coalition, to all intents and purposes, continued with the four-year bailout programme when it came into office albeit it did succeed in getting some variations – but few of them of a fundamental nature.

So in a sense Cowen’s government did respond appropriately – if you were an adherent to the austerity school – when faced with a crisis. But that does not excuse it for having caused the calamity in the first place.

Cowen gave as much information to Máirtin Tom Sheáinín as he has to any current affairs presenter. Maybe he gave a bit more – the Connemara man has a lovely relaxed style and his interviewees tend to be “ar a gcompóird” in studio with him.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Sinn Féin will discover power brings evolution not revolution

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Taoiseach in waiting?...Mary Lou McDonald with Galway West TD Mairead Farrell on the streets of Galway.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sinn Féin is not like any other party; even when it enjoyed only a fraction of the support of the SDLP it was still attracting the attention of the world media. During the 1980s and 1990s, just about the only Irish political figure American political journalists could name was Gerry Adams.

There was something about Sinn Féin that set it apart – that smell of cordite was catnip for the media.

So the party is viewed through a different lens than, say, the Labour Party, or the Social Democrats, or even the Greens. It carries original sin in the eyes of a portion of the electorate (generally older) who see its association with violence (which included many egregious murders and massacres) as unforgivable for all time.

For others, the passage of time has taken some of the sharp edges away. For the rest, specifically those born after the 1994 ceasefire, that is just not relevant to their lives. For some of those who remember those years, that attitude of younger voters is hard to stomach. But that’s the reality of how things stand just now.

I was always taken by the phrase of the late historian Ronan Farren that the birth certificates of all nations are blood-soaked. The fact of the matter is that Sinn Féin has been in from the cold for 25 years almost, accepting that it would strive to achieve its goals by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Áras an Uachtaráin and the constitutional ties that bind

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Making headlines... President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina during their visit to the Galway 1916 Exhibition in the former Connacht Tribune Print Works on Market Street.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Those who become President of Ireland are, metaphorically, provided with a silken gag; for the seven years they reside in Áras an Uachtaráin, they are supposed to keep their opinions and personal political persuasions to themselves.

The relevant Article in the Constitution sets out this rule: “No power or function conferred on the President by law shall be exercisable or performable by him save only on the advice of the Government.”

The President is not allowed to leave the State without first receiving the advice (i.e. the permission) of the Government. Theoretically, every speech they make needs to be run by the government first.

The President is said to be “above politics”. That meant they are not subject to any criticism from parliament or from the government. The other side of the coin is that it is expected the President will not wander into the political forum.

For most of the time since the office of the President was established in 1937, these rules have caused no major problems. With one exception.

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

Trimble leaves a legacy of peace to be proud of

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David Trimble...lasting legacy.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The death of David Trimble brought back memories of the time he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize almost a quarter of a century ago, along with John Hume, for their efforts in securing the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

It could be argued that others should have been also on the plane to Oslo that winter, namely Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness also played an important role by steering the hard men of the IRA on a path that saw them end their campaign of violence and accept a political solution achieved by solely democratic means.

Of course, it would have been a blatant contradiction to award a peace prize to Adams and McGuinness given their instrumental roles in a republican movement that prosecuted a ruthless armed strategy for almost 30 years right up to that time. The Damascene conversion in 1998 did not erase what had gone before.

Certainly, Hume and those around him from the SDLP – particularly Séamus Mallon – deserved all the praise they got for their selfless pursuit of a political pathway and their brave eschewal of all forms of violence as they grappled with the unique set of circumstances of Northern Ireland.

That said, Trimble showed a huge degree of personal courage and resilience in facing down his critics and enemies – and there were many loud and bitter voices condemning him on the unionist side – and persevering with the talks that culminated with the historic agreement in Hillsborough Castle on that Good Friday in early April in 1998.

But it would have been unimaginable for him to be in that position three years before hand or even three years afterwards when the UUP began imploding around him. The important thing was that he stayed the course during that crucial period.

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.

Continue Reading

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