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Bradley Bytes

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

Dara Bradley

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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

Hopes mediation plan will end boycott of Council committees

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Independent mediation is required to resolve simmering rows in two Local Authority committees that debate planning and transport policy.

Community members of the two Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs) are so peed-off, they’ve boycotted them.

It’s a tactic that backfired because the SPCs effectively ignored the boycott and carried on as normal without them!

Now, efforts are afoot to ‘bang heads together’ to end the stand-off and bring some normality to these committees, which are important for local democracy, and for giving communities a voice and input into policy. But there are so many egos involved, it is no easy task.

Here’s the truncated lowdown. All five City Council SPCs have eight Councillors and four unelected reps, including two from Galway City Community Network (GCCN), and two others, including from trade unions or business lobby groups.

Four GCCN reps withdrew from the Planning SPC and Transport SPC, chaired by Cllrs Peter Keane and Eddie Hoare. They are: Shane Foran, Derrick Hambleton, Brendan Mulligan and Paul O’Donnell. GCCN reps remained on the other three SPCs.

The Famous Four ‘boycotters’ have various gripes; among them how the SPCs, which meet every quarter, conduct their business.

“It’s the mushroom approach, fed sh*t and kept in the dark,” said a source close to the Feisty Four.

The fear is that the ‘agenda is being controlled’ by the City Council’s Directors of Services, and the Chief Executive. Certain topics aren’t discussed at SPC because they’re ‘executive’ functions.

Management disputes this; nay, they recoil in horror at the mere thought that they’re the problem. Sure, aren’t SPCs councillor-led; Directors merely facilitate them.

Councillors don’t exactly like GCCN reps telling them how to run SPCs. They feel that the Famous Four are using the SPCs to push ‘agendas’.

“They’re trying to dismantle the Galway Transportation Strategy; they’re trying to re-write it. They want to take out the Galway Outer Ring Road from the strategy, and to insert a toy train or whatever it is they’re looking for,” growled one.

This, too, is disputed; the reps may be members of An Taisce, or Galway Cycling Campaign but insist they are articulating the views of GCCN and not their own organisations.

Councillors aren’t so sure. “Councillors are elected. Whether you like us or not, we have a mandate and were voted in by the people. We can vote to change policy, such as on the Galway City Development Plan. These bucks can’t. If they want to influence policy let them put their f**king faces up on posters and stand for election,” snorted another.

The Feisty Four flagged their concerns last June. Nothing happened. In October, they threatened a withdrawal. They were ignored. The November SPCs were boycotted.

CE Brendan McGrath proposed a ‘Can we not all just get along?’ solution of mediation. The Famous Four were invited back without prejudice, until a mediator could be appointed. They agreed. But a ‘breakdown in communication’ between the CE and secretariat, meant that two GCCN members were not sent the minutes of meetings they boycotted, or a Zoom link to a virtual SPC meeting in February. The boycotters were – albeit inadvertently – locked out of the meeting, and felt ‘snubbed’. That mistake wasn’t repeated for the Transport SPC of Wednesday of this week and GCCN members attended without prejudice. Best of luck to the independent mediator resolving this one!

(Photo: Derrick Hambleton, one of Galway City Community Network’s (GCCN) representatives on the City Council’s Strategic Policy Committees. He and three other GCCN reps withdrew from the Planning SPC and Transport SPC, feeling they were receiving ‘the mushroom’ treatment).
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

A catch-22 for Galway City Council on cycling!

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

One excuse often trotted out for not investing in infrastructure to encourage more cycling and walking in Galway City is lack of funding.

Then, when money isn’t the issue, and can no longer be used as cover for inaction – the Government is literally firing Euro notes at sustainable transport to placate the Greens – other excuses are cited.

One such justification that’s sometimes given for maintaining the status quo, is that there are insufficient specialist staff at City Hall to use those bags of money to draw up the necessary plans for things like the proposed Bearna Greenway.

Now, it seems, that line of response has been robbed, too.

Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly was first to announce that Government had committed to allocating up to 22 extra staff to the City Council to design walking and cycling facilities.

Will the local authority apply to get those extra workers? Perhaps they will, which would be great. Or perhaps there’ll be a new barrier put in the way of progress.

Wait for the ‘skills shortage’ and ‘we can’t source the engineers’ argument. Or maybe it’ll be the fault of Health and Safety, which can be blamed for just about anything; the mere mention of it can turn idealists’ hopes and dreams to dust.

Or how about Health and Safety’s annoying cousin, GDPR; yes, good old data protection is a bullet-proof defence for conservative public servants to do nothing.

Another favourite is the ‘we can’t build a greenway because it’ll interfere with special areas of conservation’. Remember that old chestnut? That’s a particularly devious checkmate move to thwart environmentalists’ enthusiasm for getting above their station.

If all that fails, they could always blame Covid-19 – nobody can argue against that, sure.

In fairness, some progress is being made in Galway. But until the system – ie, the politicians and management in local government – actually wants to embrace change, real change, then there will always be an excuse not to transform public transport and promote cycling and walking as viable alternatives to private cars in this city.

(Photo: Senator Pauline O’Reilly, who announced the Council’s 22 extra staff to design cycling and walking facilities).
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Bertie – fly in ointment for Dev Óg’s Áras bid!

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Éamon Ó Cuív is four times more likely to become the next President of Ireland than he is to replace Micheál Martin as Fianna Fáil leader.

Fianna Fáil’s finest is sixth favourite with the bookies to take over from his former Galway West constituency rival, Michael D Higgins, in Áras an Uachtaráin.

At 12/1, the bookmakers reckon the Corr na Móna man has a decent shot at the Park.

And yet Dev Óg, grandson of Éamon de Valera, is a no-hoper in the race to be the next leader of the Soldiers of Destiny, with bookies quoting 50/1 for Ó Cuív to take over the reins when Martin either steps aside or is taken out.

Éamó has no appetite to lead the party his grandfather founded; its parliamentary party – Senators and TDs – has long outgrown him, even if he still commands huge respect among grassroots who are more in tune with his social conservatism.

But even still, surely he has more of a chance of being its leader than say, Galway East TD, Anne Rabbitte who is priced at 40/1 to take over from Martin, or James Browne – exactly, who? – who is a, err, snip at 33/1?

Meanwhile, five are short-listed ahead of Dev Óg in the race to succeed Michael D: Mairéad McGuinness (7/2), Fergus Finlay (6/1), Emily O’Reilly and John Finucane and Ruairí Quinn (both 11/1).

Interestingly, Éamó has as much a chance as RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan, who is also 12/1.

To get on the ticket, it’s likely Dev Óg will need approval from the Fianna Fáil party. And for that there’ll be competition. The Soldiers of Destiny decided not to fight the most recent campaign, with private polling telling them Micky D couldn’t be beaten, and so they will almost certainly back a candidate in 2025.

Dev Óg, according to the bookies, is the FF frontrunner, but lurking with intent is former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Facilitated by an amnesic and/or forgiving national media, the Bert has undergone something of a revival of late and his views on Brexit have been sought by RTÉ and others.

Further indication that the Teflon Taoiseach is interested in the Áras came last week with confirmation in the Sunday Times that he’d sent a letter of congratulations to his long-time nemesis Micheál Martin upon the latter’s elevation to the office of Taoiseach. The Bert boomerang could scupper Éamó.
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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