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Governments know that by-elections invariably bring a bout of the blues!

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

I met Noel Treacy at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis at the weekend and he was in his usual ebullient form. The former Galway East Deputy shares on characteristic with PC Dixon of Dock Green – he never forgets a face (or a name) and it was instructive to see him work the crowd.

Little did we know that later that night the one political statistic which will be forever associated with Treacy would get a re-airing that night.

In July 1982 Treacy contested the by-election in Galway East for Fianna Fáil following the death of Johnny Callanan. A Fianna Fáil government was in power and there was nothing altogether unusual about a Government TD winning a seat in a stronghold for his own party. Had not Enda Kenny did the same in 1975 when succeeding his late father in a by-election, when a Fine Gael-Labour coalition was in power?

But Treacy’s victory came to be marked out – because for almost three decades afterwards, no Government candidate won a by-election.

The duck was broken, ironically, by Patrick Nulty’s victory for the Labour Party in the October 2011 when he won the seat left vacant by the death of Brian Lenihan junior.

There might have been particular reasons for that. Most of the Deputies who died in office were in opposition at the time. Brian Lenihan’s senior’s death in 1996 is a good example: Fianna Fáil was not in Government at the time. When a child or close relation of a deceased politician runs in a by-election the sympathy factor will be, naturally, very high.

That would have had some bearing for example, in Helen McEntee’s success in Meath East last year, when she won the contest for the seat left vacant by the death of her father. In doing so, she also broke the pattern.

However, it’s not always a given. Galway-born TD Seamus Brennan died in 2008 after a battle with cancer. Inexplicably the government of the day did its usual foostering job and delayed the by-election until the following year. By that stage a narrative of annoyance had built up about the delay.

Even though Brennan’s son Shay agreed to run (reluctantly) it did the party little good. A combination of the delay, growing antipathy to the Government and the arrival of a bona fide celebrity candidate worked. George Lee romped up.

The pattern did show up a political reality that different rules apply to by-elections. The rules are not iron-cast (I think the 30 year period when the opposition always won was partly down to chance) but they do apply and parties ignore them at their peril.

The rules are:

Oppositions have a strong chance of taking the seat unless it’s immediately after a byelection.

Being the son, daughter or spouse of a deceased politician has the potential to out-trump every other consideration.

The ploy of parachuting in a celebrity may be the most cynical in the rulebook but it works more often than it backfires. George Lee’s spectacular success in 2009 is the best example – but his resignation less than a year later shows that voters get wise to it.

The reasons for backing a candidate in a by-election often have little to do with national issues. People are not deciding who is best to run the country. The might want to send a sharp reminder to the government of the day, safe in the knowledge it will continue in power. Or else they go colour-blind in terms of their own party allegiance to vote for a candidate they consider to be particularly deserving.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

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.

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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

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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Connacht Tribune

World’s politicians prefer cop-outs over COP-ins

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Michéal Martin...COP contributor.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

COP 27; it’s all the rage these days. Good cop? Bad cop? Fair cop? In actual fact, COP stands for Conference of Parties. It’s the United Nations Climate Change Conference; it more or less meets every year and involves most leaders of 197 nations peppered around the globe.

The talks focus on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), an agreement to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent human-generated interference to the world’s climate system.

So every year, leaders discuss and try to reach agreement on the best ways to limit – or reduce – global temperatures and to cut emissions from fossil fuels and from human industry and activity.

COP 1 was held in Berlin in 1995. What’s happening in Egypt this week and next is the 27th meeting of world leaders on climate change.

I have attended two COPs: COP 15 in in 2009; and COP 21 in 2015.

COP 15 was held at the end of November and beginning of December in Copenhagen. I was added to the reporting ticket and booked my accommodation at the last minute. I managed to secure a room the size of a generous coffin (and it felt like one too) at the price of the Paris Ritz.

My biggest thrill there were seeing Barack Obama in the flesh as he passed by me in the hall – surrounded by a retinue of secret service agents. I also had the briefest of forgettable chats with Thom Yorke, the lead singer with Radiohead who has a huge interest in the issue.

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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