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IMMA debacle leaves Enda with egg all over his face

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the opening of the Croi Heart and Stroke Centre.

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

We’ve all heard of pop-up exhibitions – but few have caused such hue and cry as the two-week wonder we have just witnessed at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, IMMA.

The furore it caused can be compared in the same breath to the first time the impressionists exhibited to the Academie; or to the first time Picasso’s Guernica was unveiled; or when Andy Warhol debuted his Campbell’s soup tin.

This exhibition wasn’t a painting, but rather an installation (as one Irish Times letter writer so accurately put it). Its inspiration is clear but the artist is unknown – however, there is a suspicion it may have been a collaboration between two eminent maestros: Enda Kenny and Heather Humphreys.

And almost as soon as it appeared in IMMA, the exhibition was closed down. But there are rumours that it may be appearing again after October 10 but this time in the fossil museum otherwise known as Seanad Éireann.

If there is one thing that all Irish political parties are particularly talented at, it’s taking a silk purse and turning it into a sow’s ear.

Here Fine Gael was last week looking in the best shape it has been in since the General Election of 2011. Michael Noonan made one of his weekly Friday apparitions in Limerick to tell his disciples that the CSO figures from the day before might result in growth of three per cent for ten years running. The figures were astounding and it was clear they were no flash in the pan.

The Government could say it had got rid of the Troika, dealt with some of the legacy debt – or at least the promissory note – and now brought the country galloping out of the recession it had been mired in for five years.

In politics, there are no stronger determinants than the economy. In other words, if the economy is performing strongly, it’s the ace up the sleeve. The Government party can throw it down on the table and say, with justification: “Now beat that!”

If you look back to 1997 and even 2002, Fianna Fáil was embroiled in its fair share of controversies over graft and political corruption but its overtures on the economy essentially out-trumped all the negatives.  I suspect it will be the same way for this Government if it sells its successes.

But if it keeps tripping up with seemingly small process issues like it did this week, it could end up taking a spectacular and not so pretty fall.

At the heel of the hunt, the self-inflicted fiasco over John McNulty’s appointment to IMMA removed at a stroke much of the good news on the economy from the week before.

I used stroke deliberately there because that was what it was – and not a particularly good one at that.

I spoke to a senior Fianna Fáil person last week and said to him that it must have filled him with nostalgia. “What, not at all,” he replied with a curl of the lips. “Don’t even begin to compare that stroke with ours. That was an amateur job. When we did strokes in the past we did them properly.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Mini pause proves there are no easy routes to recovery

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Melbourne...continuous lockdown for most of the past two years.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

You think we have it bad this week – what with the delay in a full reopening?  You could be living in Melbourne. The city with a population of five million has been under almost continuous lockdown for most of the past two years.

Since March 2020, there have been 262 days of lockdown in Melbourne, across six periods where people’s movements were incredibly restricted. That included curfews between 9pm and 5am.

Australia and New Zealand were two of only a handful of countries in the world which pursued elimination, rather than containment, strategies with the virus, or Zero Covid as it was called.

For a long time, it seemed like the correct strategy, the one setting the standard. Both countries clamped down hard with very restrictive lockdowns and effectively closed their borders.

They threw all their resources into testing, contact tracing and even testing the wastewater. Those who were identified as cases and close contacts were isolated. The countries also introduced mandatory hotel quarantine.

And it was very effective; when the Alpha (Essex) strain hit Ireland and other countries in December and January, both countries were fully open and enjoying unrestricted access to stadiums, hotels, restaurants, schools. Anytime, there was the hint of an outbreak strict local and regional lockdowns were imposed, some for several weeks, some for longer.

Sure, there were long and severe lockdowns. But there was also a lot of freedom, over 450 days without restrictions.

The strategy only worked if you cut off the country completely from all other countries in the world. New Zealand, for example, did that because it did not have sufficient capacity to deal with the kind of crisis China and Italy had faced, when people died because they could not be intubated, or there were not enough ventilators to go around.

There were downsides. The cost, for one, was exceptionally high. It meant a huge diminution in people’s personal rights. Limited availability in mandatory quarantine hotels meant a lot of New Zealanders and Australians living abroad were prevented from returning home.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Budget throws up history of drama on Dáil’s longest day

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The longest day...Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

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

It’s the biggest set-piece of the year in Irish politics, the one day of the political calendar when the Dáil chamber is full to the brim. And no matter how much the body politic is bludgeoned, Budget Day remains special.

There are some years in which the budgets are pass-remarkable but, then again, there are some years in which the budgets are just bloody remarkable.

In modern times none can really touch the drama of Charlie McCreevy’s announcement of decentralisation in December 2003. If it were to be done today, people would nod all round and say that’s a sensible enough proposal. But back then the notion of tens of thousands of public servants making an exodus from Dublin to the provinces was unfathomable and unthinkable.

The 2007 Budget was something else to behold. It was the middle of the Celtic Tiger and there were concerns that the economy was overheating to a point that the boiler was about to explode – even if nobody fully realised it at the time. More critically there was an election to be won.

At the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis before the election Bertie Ahern read out a shopping list of giveaways, harking back to the infamous Fianna Fáil manifesto of 30 years beforehand.

Ahern had been before the Planning Tribunal to explain political contributions and hand-outs he himself had got from his friends. The feelgood budget helped divert some of the heat away – and ultimately, it was enough to win the party a historic third term in government.

By the following spring, Ahern was gone and by that summer everything had ‘come to a shuddering halt’, to employ the phrase of the late Brian Lenihan Junior. Giveaway budgets tend to come back and bite you in the nether regions.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

NDP reheats old dishes – while kicking other cans down the road

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan at the launch of this week's National Development Plan in Cork.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The new National Development Plan may be 180 pages long – but the vast majority of the 220 TDS and Senators would have confined their reading to one or two pages. Digested down, they read only what was relevant to their own neck of the woods – whether or not that school or hospital was being funded into the future, or if that long-promised road was going to get the go-ahead.

Even when it’s €165 million over a decade, when you boil it down, it never seems to add up to all that much when the local components are grouped together.

So what is the West getting? There’s the Moycullen bypass, but that’s happening already. The ring road around Galway is included, but that’s been talked about for over a decade now with no guarantee it will be finished within the lifetime of this plan.

There’s a new Emergency Department and ward block included for University Hospital Galway, which will be a big investment, and a welcome one. It’s likely that one of the three new elective hospital facilities under Sláintecare will be established in Galway, which will be a boost to the city and the region.

NUI Galway will also get a regeneration of its library under the plan.

There’s no such luck for the Western Rail Corridor. After a plethora of studies, the can is being kicked down the road again with yet another study.

The NDP says: “A Strategic Rail Review has recently been launched which will examine all aspects of the inter-urban and inter-regional rail network including decarbonising the railway, the feasibility of higher speeds, increased capacity, improved connectivity to the North-West and the enhancement of the Dublin to Mullingar railway line and the creation of a strategic plan for freight. The Western Rail corridor has the potential to revitalise the West of Ireland and the Strategic rail review will examine how it would be delivered.”

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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