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Kenny’s State of the Nation allows him seven minutes of airtime without being interrupted

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

A quiz to be held in about a month’s time.

Question One: Where were you when 9/11 happened?

Question Two: Where were you when you heard Nelson Mandela had passed away?

Question Three: Where were you when Galway won that fateful All-Ireland in 1980?

Question Four: Where were you when Enda Kenny made his State of the Nation speech marking the moment when Ireland exited the bailout?

The chances are, when asked those posers sometime in early 2014, you will be able to make a fair attempt at the first three. But mark my words, if you are not stumped by the fourth one, they are going to need crowbars to lever and prise that political anorak off you.

Yep, Enda’s seven minutes of intonement to the nation isn’t going to live long in the memory banks – the best that can be said about it is that it wasn’t as awful as the last ‘State of the Nation’ speech he made in 2011.

That one was made before the Budget and was a naked party political broadcast for Fine Gael and the Government, letting rip at the Fianna Fáil led Government and telling everybody how brilliant the Coalition was.

Even back then he admitted it wasn’t going to be easy. But unforgivably he used the opportunity to float for the millionth time that cringe-inducing cliché of his that he wanted Ireland to become the best small country in the world to do business in by 2016.

The message last Sunday night was that he wanted to become the best little government in the world to vote for in 2016.

Usually, ‘State of the Nation’ addresses are reserved for times of national emergency. In fact, the Broadcasting Act gives the Taoiseach of the day an automatic right to make a ‘State of the Nation’ address to the Irish people on national television, but only in the case of a national emergency.

The two most memorable examples are Jack Lynch’s address in 1969 when it looked like there was going to be a pogrom of entire Catholic communities in the North. With a huge upsurge in violence directed at Catholic communities seemingly imminent, he told the Irish people that the Government would not stand by.

Eleven years later, Charles Haughey had just succeeded Lynch as taoiseach and it became quickly clear to him that the economic policies set out in Fianna Fáil’s expansionist 1977 manifesto were not working and the economy was heading for a shock.

He took to the airwaves in early 1980 to inform the nation with a funereal voice that “we as a people are living way beyond our means”.

The address was dramatic and would have been remembered in any instance. What made it doubly memorable were the revelations that followed 15 years later about the massively extravagant lifestyle Haughey himself was living at the time. The phrase ‘living way beyond our means’ might have been invented for him.

In fact, there were two other such ‘State of the Nation’ broadcasts. Both of them were made by Garrett FitzGerald during the 1980s but were very political in tone and focused on economic issues. Both have fallen into obscurity since, as Kenny’s two less than memorable efforts have.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Sinn Féin will discover power brings evolution not revolution

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Taoiseach in waiting?...Mary Lou McDonald with Galway West TD Mairead Farrell on the streets of Galway.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sinn Féin is not like any other party; even when it enjoyed only a fraction of the support of the SDLP it was still attracting the attention of the world media. During the 1980s and 1990s, just about the only Irish political figure American political journalists could name was Gerry Adams.

There was something about Sinn Féin that set it apart – that smell of cordite was catnip for the media.

So the party is viewed through a different lens than, say, the Labour Party, or the Social Democrats, or even the Greens. It carries original sin in the eyes of a portion of the electorate (generally older) who see its association with violence (which included many egregious murders and massacres) as unforgivable for all time.

For others, the passage of time has taken some of the sharp edges away. For the rest, specifically those born after the 1994 ceasefire, that is just not relevant to their lives. For some of those who remember those years, that attitude of younger voters is hard to stomach. But that’s the reality of how things stand just now.

I was always taken by the phrase of the late historian Ronan Farren that the birth certificates of all nations are blood-soaked. The fact of the matter is that Sinn Féin has been in from the cold for 25 years almost, accepting that it would strive to achieve its goals by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Áras an Uachtaráin and the constitutional ties that bind

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Making headlines... President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina during their visit to the Galway 1916 Exhibition in the former Connacht Tribune Print Works on Market Street.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Those who become President of Ireland are, metaphorically, provided with a silken gag; for the seven years they reside in Áras an Uachtaráin, they are supposed to keep their opinions and personal political persuasions to themselves.

The relevant Article in the Constitution sets out this rule: “No power or function conferred on the President by law shall be exercisable or performable by him save only on the advice of the Government.”

The President is not allowed to leave the State without first receiving the advice (i.e. the permission) of the Government. Theoretically, every speech they make needs to be run by the government first.

The President is said to be “above politics”. That meant they are not subject to any criticism from parliament or from the government. The other side of the coin is that it is expected the President will not wander into the political forum.

For most of the time since the office of the President was established in 1937, these rules have caused no major problems. With one exception.

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

Trimble leaves a legacy of peace to be proud of

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David Trimble...lasting legacy.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The death of David Trimble brought back memories of the time he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize almost a quarter of a century ago, along with John Hume, for their efforts in securing the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

It could be argued that others should have been also on the plane to Oslo that winter, namely Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness also played an important role by steering the hard men of the IRA on a path that saw them end their campaign of violence and accept a political solution achieved by solely democratic means.

Of course, it would have been a blatant contradiction to award a peace prize to Adams and McGuinness given their instrumental roles in a republican movement that prosecuted a ruthless armed strategy for almost 30 years right up to that time. The Damascene conversion in 1998 did not erase what had gone before.

Certainly, Hume and those around him from the SDLP – particularly Séamus Mallon – deserved all the praise they got for their selfless pursuit of a political pathway and their brave eschewal of all forms of violence as they grappled with the unique set of circumstances of Northern Ireland.

That said, Trimble showed a huge degree of personal courage and resilience in facing down his critics and enemies – and there were many loud and bitter voices condemning him on the unionist side – and persevering with the talks that culminated with the historic agreement in Hillsborough Castle on that Good Friday in early April in 1998.

But it would have been unimaginable for him to be in that position three years before hand or even three years afterwards when the UUP began imploding around him. The important thing was that he stayed the course during that crucial period.

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.

Continue Reading

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