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Government’s self-praise for big successes masks plethora of failures and half-truths

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

Like the Pravda headlines during the Soviet era that always intoned that tractor production in Minsk and Volgograd had reached record outputs for the 15th year running, the Coalition is  adept at churning out reports in which it gives itself gold stars, without even the slightest blush of modesty.

This week marks the third anniversary of this Coalition and it marked it with a scorecard of its performance on the over 200 items in the Programme for Government.

I am writing this before Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore launch the report but I as sure as night follows day it will be all gold stars, and self-congratulating and aren’t we the best little Government to do politics in by 2016.

The strange thing is that when you start to parse the Programme, you are struck by the fact that the failures run into scores. So many promises have bitten the dust but they have all been conveniently airbrushed from the ‘narrative’, as political types like to describe how they tell well-intentioned porkies to the world.

As against that, it must be said there have been some big wins. The promissory note deal last year was one. It might not add up to the sum of its parts in the long run but it was a very effective political manoeuvre, and the Government got a double whammy in by killing off Anglo Irish Bank with one fell swoop.

The other, of course, was the Troika exiting Ireland, with the Government bravely (some say foolhardily) resisting any kind of a second bailout, or a provisional back-stop. They would have involved new conditions and the EU continuing to “correct our homework”, to employ Pat Rabbitte’s nice phrase.

I must say I liked the transparency and openness of the Troika programmes. They were there for all to see. Everybody knew what goals the Government had to achieve every three months. And everyone knew if they succeeded in meeting the targets or not.

With the departure of the Troika it’s back to business as usual. There are a lot of overall targets set for 2015 and 2016 but the responsibility for meeting them will rest with the individual departments.

There won’t be a memo (or even departmental memo) so keeping track of them will become a bit like driving through a muddy field with broken windscreen wipers. But that’s the way Governments like it. The less Joe Public knows the better it is.

Anyway, in the week that is in it – and to counter the torrents of public propaganda and self-congratulation – it might be worth reminding you of some of the less than auspicious moments of this government over the past three years.

Of course a Programme of Government agreed between a party of the right and a party of the left will involve compromises and some deliberate fudges (to be a Sir Humphrey about it an issue is parked and the programme contains some generalities that might or might not translate into policy at some future indeterminate point – get the drift?).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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.

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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

Leo has to take his medicine after debacle over leak to GPs

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Words of comfort...it's a big week for Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and US President Donald Trump.

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

It’s the first week in quite a while that Covid-19 has been knocked from the top slot in politics by other events and controversies. For it to happen, it’s taken no less than polling day in a US presidential election (which we will come back to later) and Leo Varadkar getting snared in a trap of his own making. With friends like his who needs enemies?

What has played out over a few days this week in the Dáil is a procession or ritual that has become familiar to anyone who knows how our form of parliamentary politics works.

A political storm erupts involving an office holder.

Government colleagues rush in to defend the Minister.

Opposition TDs rifle the thesaurus entries for ‘scandal’ and ‘outrage’.

The Minister makes a statement in the Dáil.

If it is immediately serious – corruption, a blatant lie, bullying or harassment, a serious breach of a law or code – the Minister is a goner.

If it is less so, the Minister will survive with his or her reputation diminished.

Unless of course, there is more and the Minister can’t just draw a line under it. If they accumulate headlines over a week, that also spells curtains.

We have seen Ministers like Alan Shatter, Frances Fitzgerald, Barry Cowen and Denis Naughten fall on their swords.

At this vantage point ahead of the Dáil debate, it looks like there is zero possibility that Varadkar will resign; he’s going to ship political damage though, that’s for sure.

For one, his apology needs to be a bit more contrite than the mealy-mouthed explanation at the weekend that his manner of dealing with it “could have been better”.

There was an embarrassment of Fine Gael Ministers (all five senior Ministers plus a couple of junior ministers) falling over themselves this week to defend the Tánaiste’s honour.

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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