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Greens may be naïve – but they should still have a role to play in Irish politics

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

The contrast between a party on the rise and a party in the doldrums can be easily gauged by its national conference – as evidenced from the contrasting experiences of Sinn Féin and the Greens.

The Sinn Féin conference in Wexford was held in the snazzy Opera House and attended by almost 2,000 delegates. It had its star turns – Gerry and Martin and Mary Lou and Pearse – and all its Euro election and local election candidates were paraded for the live television coverage. The large media presence flocked everywhere the party celebs went.

In contrast the attendance at the Greens in Dublin was like a medium sized wedding – the headcount for party leader Eamon Ryan’s speech was about 150.

There were only two journalists there for most of the day and there the only live coverage was the tweets being posted by delegates (and they had a tiny audience because the conference clashed with the Italian rugby game).

And so we witnessed a relatively regular phenomenon in Irish politics – the slick presentation of a party on the rise and the more gritty efforts of a minor party, for which every debate is a soul-searching one.

The Green Party is relatively unusual in Ireland in that it seeks allegiance primarily on its ideas and policies, and not for historical, tribal or geographical reasons.

As such, they were – and will always be – niche, even though it will argue that its so-called ‘niche’ policies should be the core principles for any society: confronting climate change; promoting sustainability, ensuring a clean society and clean environment.

But what remains nice about the Greens is that there is still a Don Quixote like naivety to them at times, a wish that everybody veers towards a utopian outlook. There has always been a split in the party between the ‘realos’ (realists) and the fundies (fundamentalists).

At its recent conference there was a motion that no TD should be allowed serve more than two terms, among other things to ensure people have clean hands and are doing it for the right reasons. 

But it was overwhelmingly defeated by a party with a fair share of ‘realos’, who recognised that experience is necessary, and that limiting a TD’s career to two terms would favour those with means at their disposal.

What was also good was that the absence of TV cameras (and then need to preen to the nation) meant that the quality of debates and interchange was much better than at other conferences… though, having manageable numbers does help.

The other thing about Green politics in Ireland is that it goes in and out of vogue. Greens tend to do better when the economy is at its height, as voters are not as obsessed with economic policies. And the pendulum swings the other way during recessions, although the underlying rationale just doesn’t vanish.

The best example of that was the 1991 local elections. A 21-year-old Trinity student Sadhbh O’Neill got elected for the party on Dublin City Council. And what was noteworthy about her election was that she never canvassed. She was in the US on a J1 visa when the election took place.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune

Connacht Tribune

Corporation Tax provides cash for Budget giveaway

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Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe: "the needs of the people are significant".

World of Politics with Harry McGee

I have seen some extraordinary budgets in my time. There were the giveaway budgets (Fianna Fáil 2001 and again in 2007) just before general elections.

There were the Covid budgets that allowed enough cash to pay everybody still in a job and pay everybody who was out of a job.

There were the hair shirt budgets (from 2008 to 2014) when the country was going down the tubes.

And there was Charlie McCreevy’s infamous decentralisation budget which was a great idea but a lousy way to go about it.

This week’s Budget fitted snugly into that category of out-of-the ordinary. In addition to a whopping €6.9 billion of additional funding in the Budget itself, there was an estimated €4.1bn extra in once-off spending in the cost-of-living package. So that’s €11 billion in spending altogether on Tuesday. It’s a big chunk of change in anybody’s language.

It was pure auction politics. First the Government said it would put an additional €1 billion in the once-off package, then it said it would put €2 billion into it, then we heard rumours of €3 billion and now it’s topped €4bn. Of course, the auction was joined into by the Opposition. They have all proposed packages that will involve considerably more spending than the Government’s Euromillions. Sinn Fein is at €13.5 billion. God knows what People Before Profit proposes to spend (it’s not easy to quantify) but its stratospheric. At least its message of spending everything we have got, nationalising everything we have got, is consistent.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Prodigal son Bertie could be set for return to the fold

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Bertie Ahern speaking at the announcement of the Good Friday Agreement.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

I’d actually forgotten that Bertie Ahern wasn’t a member of Fianna Fáil until the issue was brought up at the parliamentary party meeting of TDs and senators last week.

He was in Coventry or Purdah – or wherever politicians with a whiff of scandal around them are put – for a number of years but he’s been back at the centre of the political and public stage for so long now, you begin to forget that he was ever away.

And so last week, Donegal senator Niall Blaney stood up and addressed his colleagues right at the end of the meeting. He said 2023 would mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The party needed to put its best foot forward to commemorate it.

Out of the blue, he then said that should include welcoming Bertie Ahern back into the party fold. He called on the party to act in “a spirit of inclusivity”.

It was one of those moments that Conamara people have a great expression for. ‘Tháinig sé Aniar Aduaidh orainn’ (it surprised us from the North West).

It had not been on the meeting agenda but now it was very much on the party’s agenda. Others piped up. Offaly TD Barry Cowen said that the time had come to readmit Ahern to Fianna Fáil. Over the next 24 hours colleagues joined in, saying a lot of water had flown under the bridge since a decade ago.

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

Sinn Féin still to learn that populism comes at a price

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald meets up with US speaker Nancy Pelosi on her American tour last week.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The Dáil kicked off again yesterday with the usual circus of press conferences, tetchy exchanges in the chamber and protests outside the gate. The first private members motion was tabled by the main opposition party, Sinn Féin, putting forward its own measures to assist with household bills.

Its main suggestion is to boot out this government and put Mary Lou McDonald in.

The regional group is next in line with a private members motion on Thursday. Surprise, surprise, it’s about the security of electricity supply.

The usual pre-Dáil niceties have now been dispensed with. All the political parties held parliamentary away days – or think-ins as they have been dubbed. I’m sure policy and strategy is discussed at some of them but the name of the game is to get your name up in lights before the Oireachtas kicks off.

As night follows day, it will only be a matter of days before the first no-confidence motion is tabled against a Government Minister. Given the huge price hikes in electricity and gas bills, it could be Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan who finds himself in the crosshairs of the opposition parties.

Then there’s the legislative programme. At the start of each new term, the Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers releases a list of about 40 Bills that are earmarked for publication before the session comes to an end. Getting half of them published would represent an exceptionally good performance.

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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