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Donnelly’s withdrawal won’t sink bank inquiry

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Stephen Donnelly.... resignation triggered backlash.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The banking inquiry has turned into a terrible mess – but if truth be told, this fall has been long coming. And how we have got to here has provided a salutary lesson about politics.

It is often described as the art of the possible. That’s a rather posh way of saying when we promise something there’s absolutely no guarantee that it’s ever going to happen in the way you think it is.

The promise of a banking inquiry was one of the central planks of the Programme for Government. And why would it not have been?

Even three and a half years later, the memories have not completely faded of the febrile atmosphere that existed at the time. There was real raw anger – with the banks; with the speculators; with Fianna Fáil and the Greens in Government.

The IMF was in town and the descent into the fifth circle of economic hell had happened so quickly that people were struggling to understand. A lot of the heat and light in the debate during the election campaign had surrounded the granting of the blanket bank guarantee at the end of September in 2008.

Brian Cowen and his Cabinet said there was nothing else that happened that night that was material to the decision. The Opposition continued to voice suspicion. On the social media, the main theme (as ever) was conspiracy – I’d say over half the tweets these days are tapped out from a grassy knoll.

So it was not surprising the commitment to hold a banking inquiry was an imperative in the Programme for Government. Enda Kenny, recalling it in the Dáil recently, even quoted Albert Einstein: Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.

The problem with quoting Einstein is that if your plan is less than genius you are going to look silly.  The first approach to the runway was the referendum in October 2011 to extend the scope and powers of parliamentary inquiries.

The ability of parliament to investigate matters of great public controversy had been seriously curtailed following the judgement of the courts that a parliamentary inquiry into the Garda shooting of John Carthy in Abbeylara, Co Longford, had overstepped its mark.

After that, parliamentary investigations have been like a bird with clipped wings, unable to undertake meaningful inquiries because they could not make any adverse findings against an individual who wasn’t a member of the Oireachtas.

The problem with Brendan Howlin’s remedy was that he went too far the other way. He proposed to give parliamentary inquiries wide powers with the spectre being raised that they could almost operate a parallel system of justice to the courts. A focused attack late in the campaign by former Attorney Generals put paid to the referendum and it was back to square one.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Guard changes but tough calls wait for another day

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Changing of the guard...Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sic transit gloria mundi. I used to love using that expression when I was a student. For obvious reasons. A. It had the right degree of pretension for a show-off like myself. B. It actually means something.

It should be engraved on the headstone of every politician. Enoch Powell had another way of saying it; all political careers end in failure.

Anyway we have another changing of the guard on December 17, where Micheál Martin steps down as Taoiseach and Leo Varadkar steps in. It might equally be described as moving the deckchairs on the Titanic, if you are an opposition TD.

Unless my political judgement is completely off beam, I think it will be Martin’s last spin as Taoiseach – making him shortest-lived Fianna Fáil Taoiseach, although, in fairness, Albert Reynolds did not last all that much longer than he.

Strangely enough he will remain as Fianna Fáil leader. For how long? Indefinitely. Martin has managed to be a better survivor than many of his predecessors. When he was elected party leader in 2011, many predicted he and the party would be gone by the next election. They weren’t.

Then they said he would be the first Fianna Fáil leader never to be Taoiseach. Then they said he would be gone as Fianna Fáil leader around the time he stood down as Taoiseach. He isn’t and there is a strong chance now he will lead his party into the next general election.

Why? Because there is not a ready-made natural-born Fianna Fáil leader among its parliamentary corps. Not yet, anyway.

If he survives to 2025 he will be actually the second longest serving Fianna Fáil leader after Eamon de Valera, outlasting Bertie Ahern and Charlie Haughey and Sean Lemass.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Greens set the bar high on seats for next local elections

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Eamon Ryan...brave ambitions.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

There we all were thinking the Greens were going to repeat what happened a decade ago and lose most, or all, of their seats in the next election. But then Eamon Ryan told the party’s annual convention last weekend that he wanted the party to grow and increase seats.

He even put a target on it – to double its number of council seats from 50 to 100 at the next local elections in 2024.

It’s a brave claim and there will be some that say the only target we see is the one on Eamon Ryan’s back.

We all know the fate of smaller parties in government in Ireland. And none should know it better than the Greens. They won six seats in 2007 and lost them all in 2011.

Of course, there were extenuating circumstances. They were unlucky enough to be tacked onto a Fianna Fáil party which had pumped up the economy to bulbous levels in the decade before they went into coalition together.

The only party to buck the trend for a smaller party coming out of coalition was the Progressive Democrats in 2002. However, that was only a reprieve; they were s annihilated in the following election in 2007.

Ryan’s argument is that there is always a percentage of the population who will back Green first and it is growing. That is true. But the reality is it’s not ten per cent of the population yet – it is closer to five. And that five per cent is concentrated in middle class urban areas.

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

Only sure thing in politics is nothing stays the same

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Galway in the 1950’s – how different is this to today.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

In less than a month’s time we will witness a first in Irish politics – the first instance of a Government which rotates its Taoiseach half way through the term.

It was due to happen on December 15, but it has been pushed back to allow Micheál Martin have his last hurrah – a final Summit in Brussels.

Then Leo Varakdar will come back for his second go – and if the Government lasts a full term, Varadkar’s two stints in the job will use about amount to one full term of five years.

It’s not the first time that a shared Taoiseach has been floated. Dick Spring suggested it to John Bruton in 1994. There was talk of Eamon Gilmore doing it with Enda Kenny before the 2011 general election. Enda Kenny suggested it to Micheál Martin in 2016.

Now it’s happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last time we will see it in the Irish political context – because the political landscape has altered irrevocably.

A majority of voters in Ireland identified with one tribe or another during most of the 20th century. Memories of the revolution and civil war were still fresh. The parties both represented different sections of society (although there were big swatches of common ground). Ireland was rural, isolated, Catholic, conservative. Even in the 1980s, the two big parties still pulled 80 per cent plus of the vote.

We have a WhatsApp group from my class in the Jes in the 1980s. One of the lads recently posted an aerial photography of Galway taken in the the late 1950s. The city of Galway was nothing more than small town.

Shantalla was a new estate on the far outskirts. There was no Cathedral. Taylor’s Hill was hitting open countryside once you got past St Mary’s Terrace. There were open fields leading from Sea Road down to the shore.

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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