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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

Sinn Féin will discover power brings evolution not revolution

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Taoiseach in waiting?...Mary Lou McDonald with Galway West TD Mairead Farrell on the streets of Galway.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sinn Féin is not like any other party; even when it enjoyed only a fraction of the support of the SDLP it was still attracting the attention of the world media. During the 1980s and 1990s, just about the only Irish political figure American political journalists could name was Gerry Adams.

There was something about Sinn Féin that set it apart – that smell of cordite was catnip for the media.

So the party is viewed through a different lens than, say, the Labour Party, or the Social Democrats, or even the Greens. It carries original sin in the eyes of a portion of the electorate (generally older) who see its association with violence (which included many egregious murders and massacres) as unforgivable for all time.

For others, the passage of time has taken some of the sharp edges away. For the rest, specifically those born after the 1994 ceasefire, that is just not relevant to their lives. For some of those who remember those years, that attitude of younger voters is hard to stomach. But that’s the reality of how things stand just now.

I was always taken by the phrase of the late historian Ronan Farren that the birth certificates of all nations are blood-soaked. The fact of the matter is that Sinn Féin has been in from the cold for 25 years almost, accepting that it would strive to achieve its goals by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Áras an Uachtaráin and the constitutional ties that bind

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Making headlines... President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina during their visit to the Galway 1916 Exhibition in the former Connacht Tribune Print Works on Market Street.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Those who become President of Ireland are, metaphorically, provided with a silken gag; for the seven years they reside in Áras an Uachtaráin, they are supposed to keep their opinions and personal political persuasions to themselves.

The relevant Article in the Constitution sets out this rule: “No power or function conferred on the President by law shall be exercisable or performable by him save only on the advice of the Government.”

The President is not allowed to leave the State without first receiving the advice (i.e. the permission) of the Government. Theoretically, every speech they make needs to be run by the government first.

The President is said to be “above politics”. That meant they are not subject to any criticism from parliament or from the government. The other side of the coin is that it is expected the President will not wander into the political forum.

For most of the time since the office of the President was established in 1937, these rules have caused no major problems. With one exception.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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.

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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

Trimble leaves a legacy of peace to be proud of

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David Trimble...lasting legacy.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The death of David Trimble brought back memories of the time he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize almost a quarter of a century ago, along with John Hume, for their efforts in securing the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

It could be argued that others should have been also on the plane to Oslo that winter, namely Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness also played an important role by steering the hard men of the IRA on a path that saw them end their campaign of violence and accept a political solution achieved by solely democratic means.

Of course, it would have been a blatant contradiction to award a peace prize to Adams and McGuinness given their instrumental roles in a republican movement that prosecuted a ruthless armed strategy for almost 30 years right up to that time. The Damascene conversion in 1998 did not erase what had gone before.

Certainly, Hume and those around him from the SDLP – particularly Séamus Mallon – deserved all the praise they got for their selfless pursuit of a political pathway and their brave eschewal of all forms of violence as they grappled with the unique set of circumstances of Northern Ireland.

That said, Trimble showed a huge degree of personal courage and resilience in facing down his critics and enemies – and there were many loud and bitter voices condemning him on the unionist side – and persevering with the talks that culminated with the historic agreement in Hillsborough Castle on that Good Friday in early April in 1998.

But it would have been unimaginable for him to be in that position three years before hand or even three years afterwards when the UUP began imploding around him. The important thing was that he stayed the course during that crucial period.

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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