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End of term brings contrasting report cards for country’s political leaders

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It’s now official – we are into silly season. The Dáil is in recess until September and the politicians, if they have any sense, are abroad on holidays…with their mobile phones turned off.

So who has had a good political year? And who has had a bad political year?

We might as well start at the top this week, looking at the leaders and the wanabee leaders in each party.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has, in the round, done relatively well. He has at times being petulant and blasé in his remarks during leaders’ questions in the Dáil (but that is ultimately not of any great import). Some of his pronouncements seem a little glib and shallow, verging on jingoistic.

However, overall, he has performed well above expectations and shown real political acumen and the kind of steel that is a prerequisite of leadership.

He made a mess of his response to the Magdalen enquiry early in the year but recovered magnificently three weeks later with one of the best speeches he has given during his career. The emotional pitch of that speech, as well as the sense he was speaking for everybody, reflected the overriding public sentiments on that particular matter, though some considered it maudlin.

He also displayed the ruthlessness that’s another essential trait of a political leader (even Garret ‘the Good’ FitzGerald possessed it!) when he made good on his threat to remove the whip from any TD who voted against the abortion legislation.

The steeliness of Kenny was in marked contrast to his Fianna Fáil counterpart Micheál Martin. Although his political reputation is tainted by dint of the fact he was a Minister in the last few Fianna Fáil governments, his party has done well under his leadership, and he has also done well generally as leader.

However, Martin’s weakness as a leader was exposed during the abortion debate. Instead of imposing a whip, he took the easy option of allowing a free vote. It looked very bad for a party that was trying to present a modern image that the vast majority of its members in the Dáil and in the Seanad voted against its own leader.

It also looked bad for him. He has worked hard to negate his image as a Minister who dithered a bit and vacillated – commissioning reports rather than taking hard decisions. Since becoming Fianna Fáil leader he seemed to have confronted this perception very well – his disciplining of Eamon Ó Cuív over the fiscal treaty referendum was a case in point.

For Eamon Gilmore and Labour, after a dismal 2012 and a bad start to 2013 (a rake of defections from the parliamentary party and a disastrous by-election in Meath East, it has not turned out to be at all bad.

After a series of false starts and misfires, some of the policies identified with the party have finally materialised.

Sinn Fein has also been on a bit of a comeback trail in the past few months. The early advantage they enjoyed in the wake of the 2011 election seemed to have been eviscerated by a resurgent Fianna Fáil in the latter half of 2012 and the early stages of this year.

The view among elected representatives of other parties is that Gerry Adams just doesn’t cut it as leader in the Dáil and either misses the point or is out-manoeuvred by other leaders.

And yet Adams is a brand and has a purchase with the wider public that is sometimes not appreciated within the beltway.

For a complete report see this week’s Tribune here.

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

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

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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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Connacht Tribune

Tackling shadowy spectre of gambling at long last

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Salthill's entertainment hot spot of the 1960s and 70s, Seapoint.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The Salthill seafront was about a ten-minute walk from where we lived in Glenard when I was growing up. I can’t remember exactly when I started going to the amusement arcades but I was probably about 14.

At the time there were three or four along the so-called Golden Mile – Salthill Amusements near Western House; Claude Tofts casino in the middle of the drag, and the Silver Dollar, which was just before you turned for the Sacre Coeur Hotel. And then there was Seapoint.

The main attractions for us initially were the snooker tables upstairs in Salthill amusements, the roller disco on the Silver Dollar, and the teenage discos in the Captain’s Deck in Leisureland.

Mostly it was playing the video games – Space Invaders; Asteroids and Pacman. Yet no matter how absorbed you were with the games  you could not help noticing the other half of the arcade.

On that side there were battalions of one-armed bandits and poker machines. This was the early 1980s and I think it was about 10p a go. I think if you got one cherry on the right you won about 20p, and the amount of winnings went up especially if you got three bars in a row.

I’m not saying I never gambled on those machines. I did, although not too often. I remember having one big payout – I think it might have been £20. I was able to buy a ticket for the Dexy’s Midnight Runners concert in Seapoint.

It was July. Gino was actually number one in the charts that very week and all the Northerners were down in Salthill to escape the Orange marches.

We hung around the amusements a bit as teenagers. After a while, you began to recognise the regulars, the daily penitents. They would come in every afternoon and evening and spend hours sitting on a high school with a bucket of coins beside them, playing either the one-armed bandits or the poker machines.

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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