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Independents will fly – but not as high as they’d hoped

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Michael Fitzmaurice...one anticipated independent success.

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

Trying to analyse politics is trying to shoot a moving target, with a blindfold on, while standing on one leg….and possibly being in a different country to the target.

I sometimes trawl through political analysis pieces I wrote 20 years ago and say – by the hokey, you were a bright young fellow then. But far more often I end up saying stuff like – how wrong you were when you said Brian Cowen had the making of a fine Taoiseach, or that Fine Gael would put it up to Fianna Fáil in the 2002 election.

Politicians and those who commentate on the action for a living tend to make one grievous error: they take the facts of the moment as permanent when, of course, they are not.

Take for example when Fine Gael was on its uppers in 2002 and it was widely predicted the party was a goner. Ditto Fianna Fáil in 2011. Although like the advertisement for the homeware store, it was slightly different for the Progressive Democrats – when they are gone they are gone.

But now you kind of think…are they? There have been a few big trends in politics over the past year or so. We have seen the evidence in opinion polls. And we have also seen some turns-up for the book in second tier elections such as local elections, European elections and bye-elections.

These trends are inchoate. In other words don’t take them for Gospel even though many people do. It is true that Sinn Féin is on the rise and will do better in 2016 than it did in 2011 and in previous elections. Significantly better I have no doubt.

But I can sense a bit of hubris creeping into the party – the kind of talk that says…Adams for Taoiseach. For Sinn Féin in 2015 think Labour in 2009, when the party was riding high in the polls and we began to see the Gilmore for Taoiseach posters.

I think that Sinn Féin’s support has peaked and it will find it difficult to garner the same kind of support in next year’s election that it was getting in opinion polls all last year. Look, there’s no doubt the party will make substantial gains.

But it won’t put them anywhere near where they clearly want to be – and that’s the dominant party in a Syriza or Podeomos (of Spain) type anti-austerity government.

What I’m saying is that it’s not static, that things will change in the next year.

And of course, brand independent is also very strong at the moment. But again I would argue that the picture there is not as clear-cut or as permanent as it seems.

I was chatting with a Fine Gael Minister not too long ago who said that that kind of volatility was the new normal. I believe that he is half right.

If you look at the support levels for the two main parties, they have fallen precipitously in the past 40 years to such an extent that neither can hope to be as dominant as once was the case.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Will ‘vaccine bounce’ prove crucial to by-election victory?

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Noel Treacy...a rare by-election win for the ruling party.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

By-elections sometimes mean everything – and sometimes they mean nothing at all. Because often, by the time a general election takes place, they have faded away into the past. They have no impact at all on the national level.

That doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some memorable and crucial by-elections.

Like way back in 1982, when Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, who had a minority government, engineered a coup by nominating a Fine Gael TD, Richard Burke, to be Ireland’s European Commissioner.

Burke was a TD for Dublin West which was a Fianna Fáil stronghold at the time. The idea was the party’s candidate would win the subsequent by-election to give Fianna Fáil a majority in the Dáil.

But things did not go to script. Fine Gael’s candidate was a local businessman named Liam Skelly who bucked the trend by taking the seat in an audacious victory for Fine Gael.

Another significant by-election was in 2010 in Donegal South West. Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher had won a seat in the European Parliament in 2009 and the Fianna Fáil-led government had dilly-dallied over holding an election to fill the vacant seat.

The long-fingering eventually resulted in a court case taken by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty – which he won, amid huge publicity.

The narrative, of course, was that Fianna Fáil were trying to shut him out. By that stage they probably were. Doherty won a massive victory for his party, getting elected in the first count.

I have always believed that this victory alone provided much of the momentum for the big gains Sinn Féin made in the following election.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Vaccine programme shows we’ve turned Covid corner

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Success story…Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking with peer vacinator Anne Kennedy and clinical lead Sharon Fahy on his visit the Ballybrit Vaccination Centre in Galway.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Are we near the end? Have we finally got on top of Covid-19 for good?  Certainly, the news coming from the vaccination programme is good. More than good – it’s brilliant. The whole thing has been run so efficiently that we did a double-take at the signage in the centre to make sure they were in English and Irish, and not in German.

In Ireland, governments get very rare victories – but this has been one. More than one million jabs – between 250,000 to 300,000 each week – will have been given out during May alone.

That looks set to continue apace in June – despite the huge disruption caused to the Health Services Executive by the cyberattack from Russian hackers – with well over a million administered then.

At this moment, those in the age range of 40 upwards are getting vaccines or are getting appointments. Of course, there is always uncertainty over supplies (AstraZeneca and Janssen supplies have had periods of being sporadic). But the workhorse of the system, Pfizer BioNTech, has continued to deliver, and at scale.

So it now looks like the Government will meet its target of giving at least one vaccination shot to 82 per cent of the eligible population by the end of June.

Given the challenges involved with a nationwide programme, it is some achievement.

Being over the age of 50, I got my shot last week. It was all done seamlessly: I registered online, got a text a few days later telling me to go to the Aviva two days later.

It was strange lining up with people the same age as you, to see how kind or otherwise age had been to them. It took about two hours and the queuing was a bit like the rigmarole you go through when boarding an aircraft. But it was grand. It was all very smooth.

At this moment, about 18 to 20 percent of the population is fully vaccinated (having got two shots). Most of those are in the older cohort.

You can see the impact that has had. While daily case numbers have stayed stubbornly around the 400 mark, the number of deaths and hospitalisations has fallen.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Johnson once again shows his disdain for Irish matters

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Boris Johnson: anger over his apology to families.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

After half a century, almost a lifetime, a thin beam of justice seemed finally to appear for the families of the 10 people shot dead by British Army paratroopers in Ballymurphy, Belfast in August 1971.

The Belfast Coroner found that all 10 were innocent and that nine had been shot by British Army paratroopers, at a time when internment had been introduced. There was uncertainty about who shot the tenth person, with the possibility of a loyalist paramilitary not being totally excluded.

Among those who had been killed were a mother of eight, and a parish priest. The Coroner said she was convinced the priest was a peacemaker who was shot in the back.

Last week his brother, Patsy, now in his 80s said: “It was nice to hear that. He was a peacemaker. For 50 years, my brother was accused of being a gunman, which was all untrue. I knew it was untrue, but people didn’t know it.”

It’s terrible to think of the legacy of such acts, how people have to carry that sense of injustice with them for a lifetime. We have seen it with the victims of the Stardust Fire, or the various State institutions that incarcerated children (and expectant mothers); of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and indeed, of the 1971 Arms Plot trail.

The response of political parties in this State to the Ballymurphy verdict was uniform. The Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he hoped it would bring some solace to the family survivors who have spent so many fruitless years campaigning for justice. Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney referred to it shining a light of justice on a particularly dark era in Northern history.

The response from Sinn Féin was more flinty. Michelle O’Neill spoke about it being murder. The party leader Mary Lou McDonald pointed to the imminent move by the British Government to give amnesty to those accused of criminal acts in the period before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Unfortunately, the response of the British Government was also uniform. It was not surprising that there was an angry reaction to Boris Johnson’s apology to the families.

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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