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Bradley Bytes

Diddle-idle-day-ro outshines cranks at people’s debate

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Vincent Browne was happy to let the audience throw the punches in the Galway West constituency debate.

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

Just as the Irish dancers and musicians from Trad on the Prom shuffled stage-left, contrarian broadcaster and journalist Vincent Browne declared: “That’s the best part of the programme – it’s all downhill from here.”

He wasn’t wrong.

It was last Monday night and every political latchico in the Galway West constituency was thronged into the Galway Bay Hotel for the recording of The People’s Debate, which was edited and broadcast on TV3 on Wednesday. Though the edited version that was broadcast seemed quite polished, the ‘live’ debate was a test of endurance and patience even for political nerds. The broadcast version – minus the shouty gobshites that you couldn’t please – was certainly better than being there.

It was the 11th programme in the TV network’s whistle-stop tour of the country, and Galway West gave us what we’ve come to expect from the People’s Debate: a mixture of conspiracy theorists, lunatics that have escaped the asylum, cranks, advisors – aren’t they the same, says you – the Government parties’ political plants who pepper the audience and who are by far outnumbered by the Usual Suspects, otherwise known as the Sinister Fringe and the Anti-Everything Brigade, all crammed into the same room.

They’re all here for one thing – to witness, and partake in, a public flogging of local TDs.

The four punching bags were sitting TDs, Seán Kyne (FG), Derek Nolan (Lab), Éamon Ó Cuív (FF) and Brian Walsh (FG); the fifth, Independent TD, Noel Grealish, we were told, was away on holidays, and though he had asked TV3 to reschedule to accommodate him, they wouldn’t.

Noel ‘no show’ Grealish, though clearly, ahem, devastated he couldn’t tear himself away from the sun-lounger, was the clear winner by virtue of not being there.

Browne is normally the one throwing hay-makers. But, sighing and snorting less often on Monday than normal, he was, unusually, in a light-hearted mood and was happy to allow the audience throw the punches.

The woman from the Galway Land League set a bizarre tone of debate when she asked the four TDs what they thought of the ECB (European Central Bank) ordering that 47,000 Irish homes be repossessed.

When this ‘fact’ was challenged by Browne, the woman ploughed on and said it was the IMF (International Monetary Fund), who had ordered the repossessions.

“I don’t think that’s really true,” said Vincent, bemused.

She replied: “Well can they (four TDs) deny it?”

The level of debate improved (only marginally at times); and thankfully Vincent moved swiftly along and spared us her next question for the foursome, ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’

#VinB Debate throws open closet

The People’s Debate opened with a polarising audience exchange on the Marriage Equality Referendum. Fittingly, participants thereafter used the debate as a vehicle to ‘come out’ on a whole host of things. Here’s eight:

1) Senator Fidelma Healy Eames ‘came out’ against the referendum . . . well, sort of. She started to explain how she was “seriously conflicted” on same-sex marriage, and was abruptly cut-off by Vincent Browne who wanted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ speakers, and spared FHE splinters in her bottom from fence-sitting.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

How would you rate your Galway City councillor? 

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley. From the pages of this week’s Galway City Tribune.

As Galway City Council returns after the Summer recess, we run the rule over all 18 elected members ahead of a busy schedule of meetings between now and Christmas. In short, they all ‘could do better’!

GALWAY CITY EAST

Alan Cheevers (FF)

Tends not to think before he speaks. Notion to build a stadium in Doughiska for a World Cup bid was a non-runner that boosted his profile and damaged his credibility.

Own goals aside, he’s hardworking and has cultivated a vote from the new Irish – Africans in Doughiska in particular – that position him as a future poll-topper. 7/10

 

Michael J Crowe (FF)

At that Bob Geldof “I don’t give two flying f*cks what you think of me” stage of life, he has assumed the role of godfather of the Council. The gimp of a man that has nothing to lose, he can attract controversy. Droll and – recently – measured in debates, he’s fed up of management’s cavalier attitude to councillors. 7/10

 

 

Owen Hanley (Soc Dem)

A work in progress. Gullible, he swallows City Hall’s propaganda without critically analysing issues – a byproduct of the rush to be ‘first’ to tweet Council “news”.

An isolated figure cut adrift from the ruling pact, he has grown in confidence during contributions to debates. Could nudge Niall Ó Tuathail off the Dáil ticket in Galway West. 7/10

 

Noel Larkin (Ind)

Quiet since opting out of the position of mayor in 2020, after a campaign to block him getting the chain caused controversy.

Unashamedly pro-business, he’s unafraid to speak out about issues like anti-social behaviour. Strikes a chord with a sizeable portion of the electorate by punching down. The mayoral debacle proved outspokenness can boomerang. 7/10

 

Declan McDonnell (Ind)

Will he run again? The most popular candidate out east in 2019, he may have reassessed his priorities during Covid-19 and after losing his grip on the ruling pact.

A big interest in planning, he’ll enjoy the nitty gritty of compiling a new Development Plan. Refunding a relatively small amount of expenses to the Council, after a Prime Time investigation found he over-claimed, doesn’t appear to have damaged him. 7/10

 

Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) 

Another who might call it a day after this term, she’s taking heavy hits from rivals – especially Alan Cheevers – who are eyeing up the Polltopper’s wheelbarrow of first preferences. Like most of the experienced crew, she was not suited to, and struggled with, online Council meetings on Zoom but still delivered ‘on the ground’. 7/10

 

 

GALWAY CITY CENTRAL 

Imelda Byrne (FF)

A leading light in equality education, she needs to bring the enthusiasm and competency of the day job as Access Officer of NUIG to her Council role.

Showed naivety with a motion calling for park-ranger community wardens; a well-intentioned but poorly worded idea. With more confidence and experience, she has potential. 7/10

 

Colette Connolly (Ind) 

With Catherine Connolly and Pádraig Conneely gone, she’s taken on role of chief contrarian. A surprisingly competent chair of Council meetings, so far, just months into her term as mayor.

Her strengths – tenacious, questioning, rebellious, and highly sceptical of Council management – are also her main weakness: she annoys colleagues with outbursts that can alienate her. 7/10

 

Mike Cubbard (Ind)

Like many younger councillors, he’s obsessed with his social media image. Went overboard on Facebook posts, in particular, during his two (successful) terms as mayor but has calmed down since without compromising constituency work.

From a Council estate, he ably represents the voice of the marginalised in areas of the ward abandoned by others. Needs a thicker skin. 7/10

 

Frank Fahy (FG)

Has more regard for working class than your average Fine Gaeler and is ‘Left’ on most issues compared with other Blueshirts, bar law and order when he returns to type – right-of-centre, hard-line.

Occasionally highlights unusual stories – dealers using jet-skis on the Corrib to deliver drugs to Galway was one – that attract sensational headlines and ‘Are you for real?’ reactions. 7/10

 

Eddie Hoare (FG)

Anyone expecting outspokenness like Pádraig Conneely will be disappointed. Brings optimism and positivity that was anathema to his predecessor and, as an accountant, has a decent grasp of figures which will come in handy at Budget time. Too obsessed with social media, he could do with less cheerleading, and more questioning, of officials. 7/10

 

 

Martina O’Connor (Greens)

More to her than meets the eye. Could struggle to keep calm in the Chamber when chairing meetings as Deputy Mayor. But she is an engaged councillor who pushes the green agenda and fights for women in politics, regardless of party. Inexperienced and naive when it comes to taking officials at face value.  7/10

 

 

GALWAY CITY WEST 

John Connolly (FF)

A fine example of how resilience rewards. Unseated in 2009, he didn’t make a Dáil breakthrough in 2016, but persevered and has shown hunger for the political fray since returning in 2019. One of the few elected Gaeligeoirí, he’s relishing being back on the Council questioning the executive and barking at rivals. Too sensitive.  7/10

 

 

Clodagh Higgins (FG)

A bundle of energy and enthusiasm, she appears to enjoy the job. There’s a needle between her and party colleague Eddie Hoare, suggesting both have ambitions beyond local politics.

Sloppy wording of a tweet about disability drew the misogynist wrath of keyboard warriors; and her handling of plans for a cycle-lane on Salthill Prom proved the folly of trying to be all things to all people. 7/10  

 

Peter Keane (FF)

Not as prominent at meetings as he was prior to the pandemic, is overshadowed by more ambitious colleagues, and has given up on plans to progress to national politics.

Another one the Zoom meetings didn’t suit, the solicitor remains an asset to the largest party on the Council but is it making use of his obvious talents?  7/10  

 

Donal Lyons (Ind) 

Long live the King! Retired from An Post earlier this year, he’s adamant he’s not slowing down politically. Was frustrated by Zoom meetings, and hasn’t made the impact of previous terms. Will reign supreme in Knocknacarra for as long as he likes.  7/10

 

 

Niall McNelis (Lab)

Dubbed ‘Harry Three Pacts’ by colleagues who have disdain – and a sneaky regard – for his manoeuvring to secure a place in the ruling rainbow, he’s well able to go.

Enthusiastic and energetic, he does Trojan voluntary work wearing different hats. Needs to take off the maroon-tinted glasses, though, and realise his loyalty is to the public, not unelected officials. 7/10

 

Niall Murphy (Greens) 

He’s no Pauline O’Reilly – his predecessor – but has the potential to be a decent councillor. The one thing standing in his way of becoming a decent councillor is that he thinks he is one already. A little less ‘I know best’, and a little more listening and learning is needed. 7/10 

 

 

Read Bradley Bytes in the Galway City Tribune every week. You can subscribe online

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CITY TRIBUNE

If O’Brien is the answer then FF should ask another question

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Micheál Martin watch out! Dev Óg confirmed to TG4 last week that he wouldn't be leaving Fianna Fáil, despite his issues with the party and hinted he might stand for election again.

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

When you consider that Darragh O’Brien is one of the main contenders to replace Micheál Martin as leader of Fianna Fáil, you sort of grasp just how deep in do-do the party finds itself.

The Soldiers of Destiny aren’t exactly laden down with talent but if O’Brien is the answer then really they need to ask a different question.

As the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party meets in Cavan ahead of the new Dáil term, it’s easy to see why disgruntled TDs and Senators haven’t yet deposed Martin – there’s no alternative.

O’Brien is Housing Minister and seems like a sound, harmless enough old skin. But he’s no leader-in-waiting, if last week is a barometer.

Fianna Fáil was once the party that built houses. It asked for the housing portfolio in Coalition negotiations with Fine Gael and the Greens. Housing is the hill it is willing to die on. Solve the housing crisis and the electorate will reward Fianna Fáil, is their hope.

Wouldn’t you think, then, that after announcing what we’re told is the most comprehensive housing policy in the State’s history, O’Brien would have the courage of his convictions to actually debate and defend it against Opposition attack on national television?

But no. Instead of going head-to-head with Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson, Eoin Ó Broin, O’Brien opted for one-to-one interviews firstly with Miriam O’Callaghan – who incidentally is a brother of the other leadership contender, Jim O’Callaghan – on Prime Time; and then with Claire Brock, on Tonight. On both programmes, Ó Broin was interviewed after O’Brien left the studio.

RTÉ and Virgin Media should have refused to give O’Brien airtime if he was unwilling to debate, but media cowardice aside, can you imagine previous leaders like Charlie Haughey, Albert Reynolds, Bertie Ahern or Brian Cowen shying away from a scrap with their opposite?

It’s another reason why O’Brien will not be leader, regardless of the desire for a Dublin TD to take over.

Meanwhile, one Dubliner who knows more than most that Fianna Fail is in trouble is Galway West TD, Éamon Ó Cuív.

On Comhrá on TG4 last week, Dev Óg showed his human side in a soft-focus, and interesting, one-on-one interview.

He confirmed he would not leave FF, despite his issues with the direction the party took and its leadership. And although he conceded it was a ‘long way off yet’, Ó Cuív hinted to Máirtín Tom Sheáinín that he would contest the next general election. He’s hardly eyeing up Martin’s job?
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

We’re turning the ‘Capital of Culture’ into a dirty kip

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One of the hard-working Council staff cleaning up after revellers. Clearing the streets of rubbish costs money that could be better spent elsewhere.

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

The recently retired, but not so retiring, City Arts Officer, James C Harrold claimed on social media this Summer that Galway City Council, “currently spends more on street cleaning and litter-picking than it invests in the arts”.

For a city that’s renowned for its annual Arts Festival, street theatre spectacles, arts and cultural heritage and organisations, and the energy and innovation of its artists, musicians and so on, that’s a fairly miserable and shameful spectre.

Though no figures were given by the ex-City Council employee, it surely is a sorry state of affairs that the self-styled City of the Arts, and the European Capital of Culture 2020, spends so little of its funding on a sector that supposedly sustains its reputation.

Or maybe it’s a reflection of the filthy animals we have become during the outdoor summer while ‘living with Covid’?

As in, it’s possible that City Council does invest heavily in the arts but so dirty have we become as a society – so little ‘meas’ do the visitors and residents of our city have for this place – that the weekly clean-up operation is costing tens of thousands of euros that could otherwise be invested in the arts, and artists, or indeed other important areas such as sports clubs or playgrounds or infrastructure.

The outdoor staff and street cleaners are among the best and most dedicated at City Hall – and it is only right that they are adequately funded to allow them to continue to do their jobs to the best of their ability. But where’s the personal responsibility in all of this; why are we so selfish to think that others – be they Council workers or Tidy Towns’ volunteers – should go around picking up our shite?

Recently this column highlighted the stench of urine on our city’s streets and suggested City Hall employ power hoses as a temporary solution. Thankfully, a good dash of rain washed away the smell . . . but downpours cannot mask our own behaviour since lockdown restrictions were eased, behaviour that contributes to the littering of beauty spots throughout Galway, the new dirty old town.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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