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Election may take the air out of any Burton bounce

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Labour leader Joan Burton.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Nothing like a bit of alliteration for the headline writers! When the latest Sunday Times opinion poll was published at the weekend, the surge in support for the Labour Party was unsurprisingly shorthanded to the Burton Bounce.

Sure, it was a good result for Labour. The party doubled its support from seven per cent in the local elections to 14 per cent, the first time its support has crept into double figures in almost two years.

And the factors were easy when it came to attribution. Joan Burton was elected leader not a wet week before. The upswing could be put down almost wholly to her influence on the party.

I don’t want to rain on Labour’s parades but the unfortunate thing is that history is against it pulling any rabbits from the hat at the next general election. No matter how good Labour does over the next 198 months; no matter how well the economy recovers, it’s going to be an uphill struggle.

I wrote a piece during the leadership campaign that expressed pessimism about a Labour recovery and predicted the party’s seats might fall into single figures after the election (from a record 37 in 2011).

A very senior backroom figure texted me saying that it was its belief that Labour could very well be ‘regrouping’ (ie licking its wounds) in the bosom of government after the next election rather than on the chilly backbenches.

According to this person, the conventional wisdom at this moment doesn’t make it an option but a lot can change in two years.

Pointing out that coalition with Labour was also Fine Gael’s preferred option by a long shot, the person said if Fine Gael got 60 seats and Labour got low twenties it would not be impossible, particularly with a “Burton Bounce” (I checked last night, these were the actual words the person used so it’s not only journalists who have a grá for alliteration).

Another argument advanced by the Labour side is that there are downside risks for Sinn Fein in adopting its holier-than-thou and we are ideologically pure stance. If it stays out of government in 2016, it might suffer the same fate as the Grillo movement in Italy, say the Labourites.

Well, there’s eating and drinking in all that. There’s no doubt that Joan Burton has given Labour a bounce since becoming leader and will give the party an energy and ‘tempo’ that had maybe flagged under Eamon Gilmore in recent months.

But one opinion poll does not an election make. And her big challenge will be sustaining that bounce – without allowing it to falter appreciably – between now and 2016.

Labour’s cause will be helped by an improving economy and some new faces. Having said that not all her choices at senior level are exceptionally inspiring and I think it is in the junior ranks that we may see some exciting ideas and initiatives (as well as in from the ambitious deputy leader Alan Kelly).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Pandemic pushes playdates and pantos to peak of political agenda

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Dr Tony Holohan...’significant and rapid deterioration’.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The most senior figures of Government spent time this week considering a blanket ban on children’s playdates and attending pantomimes. In any other moment of time, the only place you might hear that banal proposition being floated would be on the stage of the Gaiety or the Olympia – and coming from the mouth of a wicked warlock or an evil stepmother.

But Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the way we think about even the simplest of things and seemingly innocent of activities.

Oh no, it hasn’t.

Oh, yes it has!

Excuse my juvenile humour there, but what seemed trivial is now deadly serious.

A further 4,607 new cases of Covid-19 were reported on Monday evening. The following day a further 5,471 new cases of Covid-19 were reported. As of that morning,  there were 579 people in hospital with the virus with 122 of those in intensive care.

“In a very short period of time, we have seen a significant and rapid deterioration in the epidemiological situation, in the as-yet-unvaccinated five to eleven-year-olds. This has resulted in a sharp increase in incidence in this age group,” said chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly had said that the situation was actually looking more positive recently, but that was before the arrival of the new variant.

Omicron by name, ominous by nature; it’s more transmissible than Delta. And as we know, Delta was more transmissible than Alpha.

The only consolation is that, so far, the new variant causes only mild symptoms. But still, everyone is taking it really seriously. The World Health Organisation has advised those over 60 not to travel until such a time as the exact nature of Omicron is known.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Ireland’s waterways are not getting fair treatment

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Controversy...the entrance to Mutton Island.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The early years of my life as a reporter in The Connacht Tribune revolved a lot around water pollution – even though I did not realise its full import at the time.

One of the big running stories in the Tribune during my three years there was a protracted political wrangle over the Mutton Island wastewater treatment centre.

The row split the City Council. One faction wanted the secondary treatment facility to be built as quickly as possible.

The immediate irritant was a phenomenon known as the “Claddagh Pong” which occurred whenever there was fine weather, or when there was a neap tide, or when the water levels were low.

The other side did not want it built in Mutton Island at all. They said it would ruin the island and its historic lighthouse, that the causeway would be clogged by lorry traffic, and a better solution would be to run the sewerage system out to near the City Dump on Carrowbrowne, where a secondary treatment facility could be built.

That row sucked up so much energy and so much time and caused so much conflict.

The context behind it all was this. Raw sewage was being discharged from the city into Galway Bay. At the time, around 1990, the population was about 60,000. That was a disgrace and a scandal.

Unsurprisingly, the faecal coliform readings in the Bay at the time were sky high. When people went swimming in Salthill or Blackrock, they were essentially having a dip in the sewer.

Over 30 years later, the problem in Galway city might have been finally sorted but the same can’t be said for all population centres in the county.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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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

Bleak January beckons if we lose the Christmas plot

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Micheal Martin.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harry.mcgee@gmail.com

This coronavirus is like a drunk leaving a bar; the minute we think it has finally left the premises, the doors swing open and it walks in again. Earlier this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke of a fourth wave coursing across Europe – and it’s affecting us, even more than anybody else.

That has spooked just about everybody.

For months we have been patting ourselves in the backs for being the best in class in Europe. Our vaccination rate of 93 to 94 per cent of everybody over the age of twelve is the highest in Europe by a considerable distance.

Yet, the number of infections here has skyrocketed in recent weeks, and with it the number of people in hospital and ICU.

When National Public Health Emergency Team forecasters gave their worst possible scenario to the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid on Monday night, they were talking of up to 12,000 cases a day.

Even with a much lower number of cases that require hospitalisation or Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admission, that is still scarifying.

How the hell is that happening?

There are a number of reasons. It’s clear that the vast majority of those who are getting very sick are not vaccinated or have suppressed immunity.

The proportion of people born in Eastern Europe who have taken the vaccine is much lower than the rest of the population. There must be reasons for this.

It could stem partly from the folk memory of compulsory vaccines when the States were under USSR control and part of the Eastern Bloc. It could be partly because of suspicions, culturally, of vaccines.

Certainly the uptake in those countries is far lower than in Ireland and those living here may be taking the lead from their compatriots rather than the Irish authorities.

There are other reasons too. Those under the age of twelve are not vaccinated and the Delta variant has been widespread among children – thankfully with few hospitalisations.

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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