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Gazing into the Christmas crystal ball to see who finds a Euro seat under the tree

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

It’s that time of year again when the Christmas lights are switched on in Shop Street, that Ryan Tubridy hosts the annual toy show on the Late Late…..and the Connacht Tribune political columnist turns his attention to, erm, next year’s European elections.

Because even the excitement of Christmas cannot overshadow our unbridled joy at finding ourselves in the new, beautifully named Midlands North-West. I, for one, really feel I belong in a logical constituency that takes in Laois, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and County Louth (hello Gerry Adams – we’re all fellow constituents now).

It takes in counties from three different provinces – and it’s just as well that Clare has been taken away because then we would have had the truly ludicrous situation of all four provinces in the one constituency.

The constituency redraw is meaningless down to its silly name. The sense of a geographical entity is, well, nonexistent. It’s not partition. It’s a partition of a partition that’s been diced up and then spat out. It’s ridiculous.

The only constituency that still feels like one is Dublin. They’ve made a hames of South and East though, although it doesn’t seem as bad as the scrambled mess that is the northern half of the country.

And so we have a four-seater, with four sitting MEPs – Pat the Cope Gallagher; Jim Higgins; Marian Harkin; and Mairéad McGuinness – all likely to go again. There have been rumours that Fine Gael has been trying to get Higgins off the pitch but it looks like he’s going to dig his heels in.

And there is precedent for this. Twice in the recent past parties have tried to push out incumbents. Not only did they fail but the MEP they tried to ditch went on to retain the seat, for no other reason than the attempt to push them out garnered them a huge amount of publicity and sympathy.

The two victim-winners were Labour’s Bernie Malone in Dublin (Labour tried to impose Orla Guerin on her) and the An Spidéal man Seán Ó Neachtain who successfully resisted Fianna Fáil’s headquarters attempts to make him walk the plank and make way for Frank Fahey.

The election is still over six months away and not all candidates are known or declared. There is always an opportunity for strong independents in European elections – going back to the unassailable TJ Maher in Munster two decades and more ago.

Profile is also important. European elections are the Rose of Tralee of Irish politics. People vote on personality and superficial likeability rather than for ideology or politics. There are so many precedents of a well-known household name entering the field.

Look at Dana in the early 1990s and former GAA president Sean Kelly and TV personality Mairead McGuinness in more recent elections. No wonder Fianna Fáil (or was it Fine Gael) was trying to court Anne Doyle recently.

So what about the new constituency taking in the northern half of the country? Well if The Cope and Mairead McGuinness run, you can be sure they will both win seats. I’m not so sure of Jim Higgins – it would be a lot to get Fine Gael to win two seats out of four.

They did it in 2004 when McGuinness and Avril Doyle both won, but that was because their fight to the death struggle against each other raised their profiles so much that both were made electable.

There’s definitely an independent seat too but I sense Marian Harkin will have some competition for it this time around. Two Galway-based independents may stand. The first is Colm Keaveney, former chair of the Labour Party. He has a high profile but is it enough and is he popular or well-known enough to get enough votes across the constituency? I just think the odds are too long on him ousting Harkin.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Labour’s awakenings will take time to reap any real reward

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Passing of the baton...Michael D Higgins with his successor Derek Nolan at the Galway West count at Leisureland.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The film Awakenings was based on the experience of the psychiatrist Oliver Sacks with patients who had contracted a disease called encephalitis lethargica during and shortly after World War I.

Thousands contracted it around the world. How they got it has remained a mystery but it could have been connected to the Spanish Flu outbreak at the time.

It essentially left them in a catatonic state, sleeping, unmoving, like zombies for decades. By the time Sacks came across a group of them in New York, they were all residents of an institution called the Beth Abrams Home for the Incurable.

That did not leave much to the imagination. Some of these people had been essentially sleeping for over 40 years.

He experimented with a drug called L-dopa, which had been used successfully for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.

The effect was extraordinary; the drug was like an electric shock that jolted the patients back to life and to sentient existence.

The ‘miracle’ had its drawbacks, however. After a while, it became difficult to control the patients as they became increasingly manic. Ultimately a tough decision was taken to withdraw the drug and the patients relapsed into their catatonic states.

All of that is a bit of a stretched way of saying ‘flash in the pan’, but life sometimes teaches us that success can be very temporary indeed.

There is a long pattern in Irish politics, for example, of a winner in a by-election going on to win a seat in the subsequent general election. However, less than six months after winning a by-election in Wexford, Malcolm Byrne of Fianna Fáil got turfed out in the general election.

Look at it the other way. Sinn Féin were the big losers of the 2019 local elections but turned the ship around completely less than nine months later. The lesson to be learned is success or failure is never a permanent phenomenon in politics.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Changing political landscape fast becoming Double Dutch

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Big winner...Ivan Bacik after her by-election victory.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Holland is so used to enduring a perennial political log-jam – where every election just digs you deeper and deeper into a rut – that they’ve actually come up with their own name for it.

It’s called Dutchification – when society has become so urbanised, and globalised, and fragmented, and lacking cohesion, that no party, or parties, can expect to win any more.

The former RTÉ journalist Peter Cluskey wrote a very interesting article last week about this continued electoral limbo they have in Holland, where he’s been based for many years.

And truth be told, the same is happening here; the day of overall majorities is long gone.

We have gone from having two large parties to having three medium sized ones (and with the demise of Fianna Fáil it could even by two medium sized ones, or one large and one medium).

The reality is that it will be difficult for the foreseeable future for any two parties to form a coalition, and it could be difficult for any three parties to do the same.

The old fealties to the three long-established parties have been blown out of the water.

The biggest pool of voters now has no permanent loyalty. They are the floaters.

And there is a growing ‘none of the above’ contingent too, possibly spurred on by the cynicism, empty populism and downright lies, of social media.

They will vote for a party that opposes the government. And once that party they support goes into government, they immediately withdraw their support for it. Short of coming up for an elixir that guarantees everlasting joyous life, these voters will never support a party in government.

I know it sounds cynical but if you talk to enough people around the country – as I always try to do – the person with a deeply cynical disposition and a hate of politicians is no longer a rarity.

Sinn Féin is the growing party at the moment and – from this vantage point – looks like it will be in government for the next spin.

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

Toughest of first years for the three at the top

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Tough year...Coalition leaders Eamon Ryan, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and Taoiseach Micheal Martin.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Just a year ago, we got a new Government. It contained two parties who had separately led governments throughout the history of the State but had come together for the first time. Then there were the Greens. It was formed during a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, caused by a Coronavirus pandemic. It came after an election of huge churn where the first time no single party won over 50 seats or, indeed, 40 seats. Seven of the Ministers were new to Government and two were recently-elected TDs.

Almost all of the collective effort in the past year has gone into addressing the enormous challenges of Covid-19. It has meant unprecedented levels of spending, of support, has led to extended lockdowns, huge percentages of people without employments, and whole sectors shut down for 15 months and counting.

Every new government has teething problems. Given those additional challenges, this coalition was not going to be an exception. Many of the Ministers had lousy starts and looked out of their depths, or out of sorts.

The administration of late is on a more even keel but the big challenges lie ahead when the huge financial supports currently in place begin to be dismantled.

I interviewed Eamon Ryan last week. He does not do negative. Most others would see the jagged internal Green Party rows and squabbling as a huge drag; the bitter divisions detracting from the achievement; the reputation of both Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin being damaged in the process.

Not for Ryan. While he acknowledges there will difficulties this is the prism through which he viewed the Greens’ first year in government and its response to Covid.

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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