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Don’t outstay welcome in the corridors of power

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Renewed rivalries...Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin during the TG4 leaders’ debate last time out.

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

Lesson one from the world of modern democracy is this; if you are looking good for a third successive term in office, then engineer a scandal or a crisis – basically anything to collapse support for the government.

Because losing once is the key – if you don’t, people will just get tired of you being a tired government.  The net result will the same. Everything will come to a shuddering halt.

If Fianna Fáil had lost the 2007 election, the likelihood is that they would have returned to power in 2011 or 2012 and would be the outgoing government now.

They would have taken over when the economy was at its lowest ebb, succeeded in deflecting most of the blame onto hapless Fine Gael and Labour, and would now be presiding over a burgeoning economy and a second term in power.

Instead, the party stayed too long at the table, and took one bet too many. The party with the most chips went ‘all in’ and lost heavily and allowed Fine Gael cruise through and take over its mantel.

Now we have an extraordinary situation where Fine Gael is now seen as the natural party of Government and Fianna Fáil is struggling to remain relevant.

There’s still two months to go to the general election and it’s already shaping up to an election where Fine Gael will be out on its own with 25 to 35 seats to spare over its nearest rival, which will be Fianna Fáil.

At this moment on time, my guess is that Fine Gael could win 65 seats. Fianna Fail will be aiming for 40 on a good day but 35 may be a realistic aim.

Labour will go in to the election with over 30 seats and come back with half of that or less. I think the party will have done enough to win ten and may even win 15.

Sinn Féin is harder to guess. A few months ago I would have said 30. But the combination of things have pushed it back. There was Mairia Cahill’s one-woman campaign against the party. Other legacy issues also cropped up.

Its less-than-clever alliance with Syriza also pushed its ambitions back once the Greek party capitulated. It will get 20 seats easily and probably 25 – but getting 30 seats might now be a bit of a push.

So that brings us to about 135 and 140. My guess is that about 25 seats will go to Independents and non-aligned TDs, less than the one per constituency that once seemed possible.

I haven’t been too prescriptive. In all honesty, many of the final seats in the election will be decided by a sliver and you would need to have the combined powers of Nostradamus and Old Moore’s Almanac to divine how they are going to turn out.

Secondly, there is still two months to go and a lot can happen. Fine Gael might continue to gather momentum and come close to an overall majority. But then votes might get cold feet at the notion of that and vote tactically for another party.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Gaybo felt nation’s pulse at time of seismic change

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Gay Byrne during his term as Chairman of the Road Safety Authority, pictured at NUIG where he delivered the inaugural address at the presentation of the Donna Ferguson Memorial Award in March 2008. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

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

Who will we have to remind us the country is ‘banjaxed’ now that the great Gay Byrne – the colossus who dominated Irish broadcasting for 40 years – is gone?

The passing of this giant of Irish life has dominated all public discourse since lunchtime on Monday – and that includes the bubble of politics.

The Late Late and his hugely influential radio show might have been classified as light entertainment; often, it was anything but. Nothing else opened the door, or shone a mirror, on Irish life with the same seismic effect.

The television show was mandatory viewing, especially in the days when most of the population lived in one or two-channel land. But the radio show was also hugely influential, especially when Byrne read a plaintive letter from a woman caught in a poverty trap, or abusive relationship, or in prostitution.

He arrived at a moment in time when the country was moving from a closed society to one that embraced the new more permissive world that came with the television and information revolution of sixties Ireland.

He attacked sacred cows, including compulsory Irish. Even though I would have been on the other side of the debate to Byrne, who was not a huge fan of Irish, he stimulated a debate that has continued to this day.

He also highlighted the plight of single young women (including teenagers) who became pregnant and were then shunned by society, many being forced into mother and baby homes. At the time, that was provocative to those who had guarded society’s morals with an iron fist, but being Gaybo he go away from it. He did specials on contraception; on gay life (he did a special with gay men at a time when homosexuality was criticised and also interviewed lesbian nuns); and on morality. The show did a light-hearted quiz in the 1960s during which a woman said she might not wear a nightie in bed. It led to a complaint from the Bishop of Clonfert who was outraged at the comments.

The Bishop’s intervention was foolish but still forced an apology from Byrne, which he later regretted. Still the Bishop and the Nightie became a famous moment in Irish broadcasting.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Button-Gate offers light relief from the darkness of Brexit

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Button-Gate...voting time in the Dáil Chamber.

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

When we were doing Macbeth for the Leaving Cert, a big thing was the Night Porter scene. Essentially, he comes into the action, sandwiched between two bouts of gruesome murders and throws out a couple of allegedly funny lines.

The point was he provided ‘comic relief’, a moment to ease all the darkness and the tension, or else to remind us off it – which brings to mind Button-Gate, the comic relief for the gruesome Brexit tragedy.

It came to light over the weekend when it emerged that the Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins had voted six times for his friend and colleague, Clare TD Timmy Dooley, while the latter was out of the chamber. By Tuesday it had become farcical.

The Dáil has an electronic voting system. Each seat has three buttons on it, Tá, Níl and Staon (Abstain). When a vote is called, the bells ring out all over the Dáil. TDs have ten minutes to get into the chamber. The doors are then locked.

Each TD has a designated seat. When they press the button it shows up as a green light (Tá), red light (Níl) or blue light (Staon) on a giant screen above the chamber. There is literally a graphic of how the votes went.

Any TD who has been there for a while will have a fair idea who sits where. It’s not hard to spot that a light has lit up for an empty chair – and that’s how Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins were found out.

That incident has spawned a cascade of allegations since then. By Sunday Lisa Chambers had to explain why she voted for Dara Calleary on the same day. Her excuse was that it was a genuine mistake.

Her designated seat is next to Calleary’s and she sat in his seat by mistake. After realising she had voted for him, she went back into her own seat and voted for herself. However, she failed to alert the Clerk of the Dáil of her mistake.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Positive noises on a Brexit deal just flatter to deceive

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A fountain to climb... Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar on walkabout in the Wirral.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

For a moment there, we were almost convinced we had rapid forward movement – until we realised all it was the air escaping from the Brexit balloon. It did a few loop-the-loops and then nosedived to a deflated end.  We were full of hope after the Wirral when Leo Varadkar hinted he had found a ‘path’ to a possible deal on Brexit. What he neglected to say was the path was over-grown and full of briars and nettles, with the odd snake lurking in the undergrowth.

So will something give; as we go to press the European summit in Brussels in still in full flow, and there’s no better place for a lastminute.com deal.

It’s not impossible – but it’s going to be very difficult.

The customs solution Boris Johnson is offering is, well, unworkable. The head of the EU’s task force Michel Barnier described it as perplexing. The rest of us are well and truly bamboozled.

In a nutshell, Johnson wants the whole of the UK out of the customs union. That includes Northern Ireland. But the six counties will have a special status, a kind of a hybrid situation when it comes to customs.

Goods going into Northern Ireland will be taken as entering the UK customs area. But if they are then going on to Ireland, the customs regime and rates that will apply will be those of the EU. For Northern Ireland traders if the EU custom rate is higher, they will be entitled to a rebate.

But that means that for all goods entering Northern Ireland you will have to know their final destination to apply the correct customs rate. So everything will have to be tracked.

But as the EU has pointed out, modern supply chains are so complex that will be impossible to do. And what if the good changes form and is then exported to the EU.

The example was given of sugar going into the North, being used as an ingredient in fizzy drinks, which are then sent onto the EU. How do you track that and apply the rate? The EU has argued there was the potential for fraud.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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