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Connacht Tribune

Hard to separate big guns – but small parties hold the key

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Micheal Martin....battle for every last seat.

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

AS unpalatable as some will find an election in early February, the reality is that all of the choices Leo Varadkar still possessed were fully spent by the time it came to early January. The chances of making it to May fell on simple arithmetic.

Since Dara Murphy’s departure, Fine Gael’s strength had been reduced to 47 TDs. With the Independence Alliance’s four TDs, and two Independent Deputies, Katherine Zappone and Sean Canney, that brought the numbers to 53.

If Fianna Fáil’s 44 Deputies all abstained that brought the number to 98. Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl bought the number to 99.

At present there are 157 Deputies in Leinster House. There were three Independent TDs who supported the Government in crucial votes – Michael Lowry, Noel Grealish and Denis Naughten. That brought its strength to 56. And the combined opposition strength was then 55. That is how tight it was.

However, even that was not certain. The Government could no longer rely on Grealish or Naughten for every vote. Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness, an awkward and negative politician, was threatening to vote against the Government in a no confidence vote.

Even if the Coalition survived a vote of no confidence in Simon Harris on February 5, the Dáil would be reduced to a parliamentary farce between now and Easter as Opposition parties and groups tabled as many no confidence motions as possible.

And so the writing was on the wall – and now that the starting gun has sounded, people will be thinking about policies and priorities and what parties or personalities closest to their own world view.

Fine Gael has been marginally ahead in most opinion polls for the past year but that means little. It’s only if one of the big parties opens a large gap, of if there is a measurable surge from a smaller party, that we sit up and taken notice.

What distinguished Ireland from other countries is our multi-seat constituencies and our transferable votes. That means a more even spread for parties but will always make it difficult for any one party, or small combination of parties, to form a government.

There will be 160 TDs in the new Dáíl, an increase of two, and one less constituency, with Laois and Offaly combined into one five-seater.

I’ve done a preliminary pass of all 39 constituencies and my initial calculation is it’s going to be very tight between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael with only one seat between them.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Sinn Féin surge turns Galway’s political landscape on its head

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Galway West Fianna Fail candidate Eamon Ó Cuív celebrates after his election with his wife Aine, their children Eamon Óg and Eimear, and grandchildren Aine, Mairead Eamon and Sean. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

It was a day that few – including Sinn Féin’s own faithful – saw coming, as a surge across the whole of the county saw the party, which was almost wiped out in the local elections, take two seats and go close to a third across Galway’s three constituencies.

The second phenomenon from the weekend’s results was the success of female candidates, with the three areas returning five women TDs for the eleven seats. The election of Mairead Farrell, Catherine Connolly and Hildegarde Naughton in Galway West alone marked a record return in a constituency which only elected two female TDs for the first time in 2016.

But – mirroring the rest of the country – the rise and rise of Sinn Féin was the big story, with candidates coming from the back of the pack to dominate.

The focus has now switched to the formation of a new Government – and while Fianna Fáil’s only poll-topper Eamon Ó Cuív proclaimed himself willing to work with Sinn Féin, so too Roscommon/Galway Independent duo of Michael Fitzmaurice and Denis Naughten revealed they were willing to talk to all sides who would take their policies on board.

Éamon Ó Cuív said Sinn Féin’s links to the IRA – and the armed struggle during the Troubles – were not a barrier for Fianna Fáil ‘doing a deal’ on a programme for Government.

And the grandson of Éamon de Valera, founder of Fianna Fáil, said a coalition between Sinn Féin and his party was still the most likely scenario.

“The options are narrowing. Sinn Féin can’t make it with small like-minded parties. Fine Gael are closing the door on everybody. And it could be a question of the last two standing, which would be Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin,” he said.

See our full election coverage across Galway East, Galway West and Roscommon/Galway over 18 pages in 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

Connacht Tribune website and social media tops the poll

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The Connacht Tribune’s award-winning website and social media channels topped the poll at the weekend for unrivalled up-to-the-minute election tallies, counts and analysis.

Over the past week, connachttribune.ie attracted more than 87,600 users and recorded 227,400 page views.

Of the users, just over 75,000 were in Ireland (85%), but the election coverage also attracted 3,800 readers from the UK (4.3%); 3,600 (4.1%) in the United States; nearly 1,500 in Turkey (1.6%) and more than 700 in Australia (just under 1%).

Hundreds more expatriates tuned over the weekend from numerous European counties and as far afield as India, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, South Africa, Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Philippines, China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia – and they returned for more!

Meanwhile, our Facebook page was leagues ahead of all other local media, with 458,000 engagements (clicks, likes, shares and comments) for the week to February 12th – fifteen times higher than some other outlets and more than 267,000 ahead of the closest.

On Twitter, the @CTribune account earned more than 207,000 impressions (the number of times our tweets were shown in people’s timelines) last weekend.

The figures show, once again, that the Tribune is the most popular and trusted news source in Galway.

 

 

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Country Living

A case for taking some of the bumps from the ‘Green Road’

Francis Farragher

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In search of the 'middle ground'.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

The dust has settled on the election campaign . . . well sort of . . . and now all of the different parties and interest groups are battling it out to have their say in the direction of our country in the months and years to come. We’d all love to be able to look forward to a greener, fairer and happier era, but the great reality of life is that there has never been a path without its bumps and twists.

American writer, publisher and philosopher of the late 19th and early 20th century, Elbert Hubbard probably summed it all up with his famous quote of: “Don’t take life too seriously: you’ll never get out of it alive.”

There are days on the farm when a walk by the river bank or by stone walls that are partly papered with whitethorns and briars just gives a feeling that at times, there is a close alignment between nature and those of who have some every-day link with the land.

In most ways, despite our tendency to whinge about the wind and rain, we are blessed with a climate here in Ireland that means we’re always destined to have the greenest of green isles, despite all the harbingers of doom, who tell us that we’re doing little right when it comes to the future of our planet.

There I was, watching a pre-election TV debate a couple of weeks back when a Dublin woman who admitted she knew nothing about farming said that maybe we should ‘cut back’ on the national herd – her view being essentially based on what she had heard someone else say.

In those debates nowadays, the trend is for such contributors to have a 13-year-old offspring perched beside them, primed to provide a little Greta Thunberg style lecture to us heathens who won’t genuflect on the spot at such outpourings.

Now, I won’t go into any diatribe about the right way to bring up children, because never since the beginning of mankind has there been any ‘guaranteed guide’ on that topic, but I do hold onto to a small old-fashioned belief, that children and teenagers, should as a general rule, not have to be catapulted prematurely into the world of adulthood, and especially so by their parents.

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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