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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

Best laid plans and programmes can fall foul of political reality

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Debate snub...Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

If architects’ plans were like the Programme of Government,

  1. the country would be full of unfinished buildings
  2. that would look nothing like the plans.

Prospective governments spend weeks – and sleepless nights – working out the programme that will be the blueprint for their term of office.

Some even produce a glossy self-congratulatory report each year, showing how many of its targets have been achieved.

Two things need to be said about that:

  1. They are subjective.
  2. Nobody outside the bubble pays any attention to them.

Some set out ambitious targets for the first 100 days of government. That idea has been around since the 1930s and is designed to show a signal of intent, that the new Government is going to put its money where its mouth is.

More often than not the new regime learns to its cost that it has bitten off more than it can chew. Achieving something in the world of politics within 100 days is like reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace during a lunch break.

  1. Not exactly impossible
  2. But not exactly possible

And do governments learn from these mistakes? Do they realise that it is a bit of a ridiculous concept?

  1. No
  2. No

There is a political problem here. You might achieve the big things in politics, you might get a wobbly economy back on to an even keel, you might create a historic record for employment, you might push through the six referendums you promised to liberalise society.

But it’s a bit like the guy who earns a reputation for not buying a round. No matter if he has devoted his life to the service of others, and has sacrificed everything for the personal good.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Politics and law have been entwined through the ages

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Seamus Woulfe...at the centre of latest storm.

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

I remember when I was a kid there was an Irish rugby tour to apartheid South Africa which caused a huge furore, including a (if I remember correctly) a shouty row on The Late Late Show. One of the arguments used by those favouring the tour was: “Sports and politics should not mix.”

It went down well as a sound bite but was a nonsense; the reality is that politics mixes with everything, including sports. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

Politicians make decisions over how sport is funded, how it is governed and regulated (look at the recent row over John Delaney’s tenure), and sometimes when it can be played.

All sports organisations have their own internal politics which can be more vicious than the stuff that goes on in Leinster House. And political parties have long ago discovered the benefits of putting a high profile former sportsperson up as a candidate.

Which brings us onto the bigger issue: the separation of powers in the State. Our Constitution draws out a relationship between the three arms of State – the Executive (government), Judiciary and Parliament (the Oireachtas). The impression that has been handed down to us is they are three goldfish in different bowls, all swimming, but in different waters.

It just doesn’t work out like that in real life. For one, for most of the history of the State, parliament has essentially been a chattel of government, with no real separate powers of its own.

In recent years, with less stable majorities for government than in the past, that relationship has changed – but parliament is still very much subservient to central Government.

It’s not just lip service when it comes to relationships with the legal establishment. There is an effort to assert that they operate in separate spheres but real life often intrudes – it’s more or less impossible to maintain the divide, unless you do it artificially.

For one, it is politicians who appoint judges, not other judges. Now, of course, judges have a say in it. There is the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) which assesses the merits of lawyers who are not yet judges.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Biden brings normality back to world’s most powerful office

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US President-elect Joe Biden celebrates his victory with his wife Jill and his Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris.

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

I did not want to make the same mistake I made four years ago. Then I stayed up until about 1.30am and it looked like it was going okay for Hillary Clinton in Florida. So I said to myself, that big buffoon is done for. When I woke up the next morning Donald Trump was the President of the United States. He had somehow managed to win Florida and dismantled the Blue Wall of Democrat States in the Mid-West by taking Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

This time I stayed up until 4.30 in the morning. And that was a mistake too. For the picture was as unclear then as it was 12 hours later.

It was too close to call but already commentators were talking of a red mirage; most on-the-day voters plumped for Trump but early voters – whose votes were counted last – had steered very sharply towards Joe Biden.

It was historic. It’s really hard to knock out an incumbent president seeking a second term. It had been done only eight times before that in two and a half centuries.

Was it his inept handling of Covid-19? Had people grown sick of his vanity and his self-serving boasts? Did this natural disruption just cause too much turmoil and uncertainty in people’s lives? Did his partisan views, that red-mist madness, repel more than it attracted?

Well, the evidence is in the poll. The answer to all those questions is yes. To me, the outcome was clear. Biden won the popular votes. He also won the electoral colleges.

The majority was small and reflects a very divided society. Trump is the champion of rural, less educated, blue collar white, conservative, Hispanic and white America. Biden is popular among the middle classes, the urbanites, the better educated, and black voters.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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