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Bradley Bytes

Election expenses’ special: What price democracy?

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Terry 'Poll Topper' O'Flaherty pictured with some of her supporters decked out in her campaign t-shirts at the election count back in May.

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

They say if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. But when it comes to the  local election, we get monkeys no matter what the candidates pay-out for their campaigns.

Yes folks, it’s that time of the electoral cycle again, when a full breakdown of candidates’ local elections are made public.

And by ‘full’, of course, we don’t really mean full. Because, truth is, election candidates are only obliged to declare the amount they spend on expenses during the official election campaign.

So, everything that’s spent on advertising and leafleting prior to the official ‘off’ of the campaign is not declared. Often that’s when the big spend is made.

Shrewd candidates ‘front-load’ their advertising outlay before the official campaign starts. That means they don’t have to declare it.

This electioneering is disguised as something else, even though everyone knows it is blatant electioneering.

So even though the amount declared by all candidates in the three electoral wards in the city amounted to more than €120,000 in expenses, the ‘real’ figure – which we’ll never know – is likely to be far greater than that.

Potter’s pot of gold is gone in puff of smoke

€11.43 doesn’t sound like a whole pile of money. It’d probably get you two pints of beer and a packet of crisps in your favourite watering hole.

That’d be money well spent.

But forking out the equivalent of €11.43 for every single vote you receive in the local elections seems a bit steep.

That, folks, is the amount Niall ‘Harry Potter’ McNelis, spent on his election campaign.

His total declared outlay was just over €9,065 for the May campaign. That’s the highest spend of any of the 36 candidates who battled for 18 seats.

He won 793 first preference votes, which was enough to retain the seat.

Wouldn’t it be a great experiment the next time if Potter decided not to spend money on posters or leaflets and so on. But instead, he’d pay 793 voters a total of €11.43 each in return for their number one vote

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

 

CITY TRIBUNE

There is no vaccine for Hitler hyperbole!

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Galway County Councillor Noel Thomas lashed out at journalist Sinéad Ryan, when he claimed on Twitter that “Hitler would have loved you, Sinéad”.

The Fianna Fáil elected representative then deleted the tweet, which was “written in anger” and apologised “to anyone who may have been offended” by it.

But not before Ryan had taken a screenshot and re-tweeted it to her 22,000+ followers. She also reported the offending tweet to the social media giant and complained to FF HQ.

Noel Thomas didn’t back down, though. In another tweet, he said: “Just to let you know Sinéad I have also reported your tweet to Twitter. It is dangerous and very unhelpful to society to be making comments like you did.”

What was it that made the usually mild-mannered Moycullener see red, and spout Hitler hyperbole during a fit of rage? An opinion about Covid-19 vaccinations, of course!

Ryan said that after October 22, unvaccinated people, “shouldn’t be permitted into restaurants, pubs or indoor venues. If they won’t protect themselves, the rest of us must do it by dissociation”.

Whether the leader of the Third Reich would have approved of this sentiment is unclear. But Thomas’s party leader, Micheál Martin, clearly does – it’s now Government policy to continue with vaccination certificates for indoor hospitality for the foreseeable future.

(Photo: Cllr Noel Thomas took to Twitter to tell journalist Sinéad Ryan that Hitler would have loved her. It was after her comments that unvaccinated people shouldn’t be allowed into public spaces indoors).

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

Galway 2020 defenders’ mortifying muscle memory 

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

It’s amazing how quickly people try to re-write history. If Galway 2020 happened, say, 20 years ago, you could maybe blame fading memory to make allowances for the maroon-tinted glasses of those who defend it to the hilt.

But Galway’s term as European Capital of Culture concluded not 20 weeks ago, and the ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ brigade are out in force with propaganda that would make Donald Trump blush.

The defenders of Galway 2020 usually fall into two categories. There are people who work or worked for the organisation directly or indirectly and/or who contributed to winning the prestigious designation. And there are those who are deluded. Some fall into both categories – deluded and with a vested interest in Galway 2020’s reputation.

It matters not that the latest criticism of the ill-fated – and extremely expensive – project was contained in an official Government report, compiled by an office with impeccable credibility, the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Be it bar-stool commentary or analysis of the CA&G, the reaction to criticism is always the same. The defenders metaphorically stick index fingers in both ears, close their eyes and chant: “Yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah”. This would be fine if it wasn’t the taxpayer who’s had to pick up the tab.

It’s like the defenders of Galway 2020 have an inbuilt muscle memory. They’ve spent so long defending Galway 2020 that, no matter what the new charge is, their memory system automatically kicks in.

And while the muscle memory that instinctively compels them to defend is, through repetitive use, as sharp as ever, their actual memories are mortifyingly short. Or maybe they’ve selective memory. Or both.

The few – and they’re getting fewer – who defend Galway 2020 often spout the narrative that but for the Covid-19 pandemic it would’ve been brilliant.

And to a casual observer, someone who never heard of Galway 2020 and its litany of problems from day one, maybe that explanation seems plausible. But the argument does not hold water.

The C&AG last week highlighted how Galway 2020 had planned to raise €6.8 million from the private sector. This figure was used in the bid book to persuade judges to give Galway the designation.

In the end, it managed to raise just €400,000 in cash, plus €500,000 in “in-kind” support.

Defenders’ muscle memory kicked in and they said, “Ah, but the pandemic, how could you raise money during Covid?”.

This deliberately ignores Galway 2020’s own bid book, which promised to raise €4 million from the private sector pre-Covid in 2017, 2018 and 2019. It didn’t materialise, which shows the projected income from businesses was overinflated, or the private sector had reservations about supporting this project long before Covid.

This is just one implied criticism in the C&AG report, which doesn’t even mention the non-appointment of a Business Engagement Director, whose job – if the appointment had proceeded – would’ve been to tap the private sector for money.

Maybe the defenders should read the C&AG report. It might help to de-programme their mortifying muscle memory.

(Photo: The scene at South Park at the same time as the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture opening ceremony).

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

Colette’s cycling ‘cabal’ puts ruling pact in peril 

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Danger here! Galway City councillors, not a month back from summer recess, and already the ruling pact is in peril of falling apart. Or as one wag put it, “it’s in tatters – again!”

Unsurprisingly, plans for a temporary cycle-lane along the Salthill Prom are causing friction.

Or, rather, the decision by the ruling pact – or some members of the ruling pact – to opt not to have a debate about those plans at last Monday week’s Council meeting has caused ructions. The fall-out continues.

Having read the previous Friday’s Galway City Tribune, where journalist Denise McNamara had elicited all 18 Councillors’ views on how they intended to vote on the cycleway motion, Mayor of Galway, Colette Connolly (Ind) called a Zoom meeting of councillors. Not all of them though, just a select few.

It took place prior to the official City Council meeting, but excluded two councillors in the pact – Independents Terry O’Flaherty and Donal Lyons – who had indicated to the Tribune that they would be voting against the Mayor’s motion.

Cllr Niall McNelis (Lab) had splinters lodged in his backside from sitting on the fence when he told the Tribune that he would be abstaining in the vote; he too did not receive an invite to Colette’s cosy cabal.

As it transpired, Terry and Niall voted for the Mayor’s motion, and Donal stuck to his guns and voted against.

What has irked them, though, is they were not invited to the Mayor’s unofficial pact meeting by virtue of the views they had expressed in this newspaper days before the vote.

Former Mayor Mike Cubbard couldn’t make Colette’s cabal but it’s understood the others – Fine Gaelers and Greens – were there. The excluded trio felt that it was decided by the ‘pact within a pact’ to vote for the Mayor’s motion without debate. Not very democratic.

To make matters worse, at least two councillors who are not in the pact – including one from Fianna Fáil – was invited, while the trio who voted for Collette to become Mayor were excluded.

The King of Knocknacarra, Lyons, is miffed and has threatened to walk from the pact. McNelis, who had to hold his nose when backing the former Labour councillor to become First Citizen, confirmed he was considering his position, too.

“I’m deeply, deeply disappointed and I’ll be seriously considering my position with the pact. For a Mayor that preaches to the rest of us about transparency, and about how to run meetings, to turn around and exclude me and others from a meeting; to exclude people who supported her is deeply, deeply disappointing,” McNelis told us.

A bit rich from someone whose loyalty is best summed up by the nickname his colleagues gave him, ‘Three Pacts’. But he has a point. And with Donal nearly overboard, Owen Hanley outside the circle and Niall contemplating his position, the pact is in peril – again!

(Photo: Labour Cllr Níall McNelis who is “deeply, deeply” disappointed’ at being excluded from a meeting organised by Mayor Colette Connolly on the Salthill cycleway debate, says he’ll be “seriously considering” his position in the Council’s ruling pact)

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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