World of Politics with Harry McGee – firstname.lastname@example.org
Wasn’t it Tipp O’Neill, the US speaker of the House, who once said “All politics is loco”? Well, not quite. It was all politics is local. But there ain’t too much difference between them.
And now, with 2020 spreading out in front of us, I’m going both loco and local with predictions of how the Galway constituencies might pan out.
First to Galway West, the biggest constituency in the province. It was once Fianna Fáil heartland and a bit of a lonely outpost for Fine Gael. All that was reversed in 2011 and Fine Gael still holds an advantage here. I think that status quo will remain.
At the moment, there are two Fine Gael TDs, Sean Kyne and Hildegarde Naughton; one Fianna Fáil Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív; and two Independents, Catherine Connolly and Noel Grealish.
We can say a few things with near certainty. The first is that Éamon Ó Cuív will top the poll – and, of the five seats, one will go to Fianna Fáil, one will go to Fine Gael and there will be an Independent.
The irony in 2016 is that Fianna Fáil actually got a marginally higher share of the first preference vote than Fine Gael but ended up with only one seat. Both parties ran three candidates.
Fine Gael was helped by the fact that all three candidates were relatively even, where Fianna Fáil’s votes were very biased towards Ó Cuív rather than his colleagues, John Connolly and Mary Hoade.
Besides, Fianna Fáil picked up fewer transfers than any other party. If it has any hope of getting two elected, there will need to be a bit of levelling up, and Ollie Crowe will need to be much closer to Ó Cuív in first preferences.
I just don’t see that happening. The two Fine Gael TDs are strong and Naughton is one of those candidates who is a magnet for transfers.
As is Catherine Connolly, who more than doubled her votes during the fourteen counts to edge out Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. Given that she has performed solidly as a TD, she will be there or thereabouts again.
Sinn Féin came within a whisker of a seat in 2016, but it’s hard to see them in contention this time – but the Greens are coming into this in optimistic mood.
Pauline O’Reilly was elected to the west ward of Galway City Council on the first count, one of two Green councillors in the city.
And given the Green surge, she has a fair chance of a seat, but would need to gouge into the vote share of Connolly and Naughton if she were to be successful.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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‘Give even one big GAA game to Ballinasloe’
It’s the most centrally located ground in the country but Ballinasloe’s Duggan Park won’t host a single inter-county match this year – much to the annoyance of one local councillor who wants the GAA to allocate at least one big game to the venue.
Cllr Michael Connolly told a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that the ground is entitled to host major football and hurling fixtures – even though all but one of the Galway footballers’ home league games are assigned to Pearse Stadium with the other one in Tuam.
“If they gave us one match in Duggan Park, it would be something,” he said. “But at the moment, it seems as if it is being ignored.”
The Moylough councillor described it as the most accessible ground in the country and a venue in which players and supporters like to travel to – unlike, he suggested, Pearse Stadium.
He said that it was “a hateful venue” and few GAA supporters relished the prospect of travelling to the “far side of the city” to watch a football or hurling match.
A recent meeting in Gullane’s Hotel to discuss Duggan Park was attended by Deputy Denis Naughton, Senator Aisling Dolan, Cllr Evelyn Parsons and Cllr Declan Kelly among others.
But the Duggan Park Committee then issued a statement saying that the ground is owned by Galway GAA and any use of the facility needed to be authorised – and no authorisation was given to the meeting organiser, former Mayor of Ballinasloe Joe Kelly, for this purpose.
Mr Kelly has been a staunch campaigner for the redevelopment of Duggan Park and has called on the local authority to row in behind this initiative.
They went on to say that there is a plan in place for the development of Duggan Park which is multiple staged which started with the new dressing rooms, flood lights and a new entrance to the venue.
Planning permission is in place for this development and that €500,000 has already been spent in the Duggan Park over the past number of years carrying out these projects.
The work in the ground, they say, is done to an excellent standard by local contractors with the support of the previous Town Council for grants and sports capital grants.
Former tourism magnet officially on register of derelict sites
The fire-ravaged hotel that was once one of the most popular in the county is now officially considered a derelict site – and that has led a local councillor to call for it to be either redeveloped or levelled.
Portumna’s Shannon Oaks Hotel, for so long popular with anglers and golfers in particular, has been boarded up for more than a decade since it was destroyed by fire.
Local councillor, Jimmy McClearn, has called on the owners to reopen or sell the property – adding that it should either be levelled or redeveloped.
“We are a tourist town and we need a hotel. The last thing we want is for a hotel to be shut up,” he said.
“It is a fine facility and on an extensive site so there is no reason why it should be boarded up,” he added.
The Shannon Oaks saga has gone on for the past twelve years – but now the owners, the multi-millionaire Comer brothers, will be forced to pay a derelict site levy if they do not reopen or redevelop.
That amounts to a seven per cent levy based on the market value of the property, which is worth around €1 million even in its derelict state.
The Shannon Oaks was ravaged by fire in September 2011 and four years later, the site was acquired by the Comer Group who, at the time, gave an undertaking that it would be reopened.
Around two years ago, planning permission was granted by Galway County Council to Barry Comer of the Comer Group to renovate the hotel by providing 60 new bedrooms along with 40 apartments to the rear of the structure.
However, there has been little or no movement on the site since then and now the owners are being again asked to give some indication as to when the hotel will be rebuilt.
It is considered an integral part of the tourism industry for the town and that is why pressure is mounting on the owners to rebuild the hotel.
Cllr McClearn said that all he is asking for is the owners to develop the site and provide a hotel there. “It’s not much to ask in a tourist town,” he added.
More than €200,000 worth of cannabis seized in East Galway
More than €200,000 worth of cannabis was seized in during two separate search operations in East Galway on Saturday.
Gardai from the Divisional Drugs Unit conducted a search at a residence in Aughrim and seized cannabis plants with an estimated street value of €146,000 and €20,000 worth of cannabis herb which will now be sent for analysis.
Two men (both in their 30s) were arrested at the scene in connection with the investigation and are currently detained at Galway Garda station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996. Both men remain in custody.
A separate search was carried out at a residence in Ballinasloe yesterday afternoon and cannabis herb with an estimated street value of €35,000 was seized. Cannabis jellies and €7,510 in cash were also seized.
A man in his 40s was arrested and later released without charge and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.