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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

Ireland must examine new alternatives to lockdowns

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Professor Martin Cormican....social distancing the key.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

As of this week, Ireland had the lowest 14-day rate of Covid-19 in the EU. Our rate of 88.5 cases per 100,000 people beats the next lowest, Finland, which is at 96 cases. Iceland, which is not in the EU, is lower but there are extenuating circumstances there, given that it’s a little like New Zealand and Australia – literally places apart.

Being an island nation is certainly a help to us. But being a small mixed economy, and a huge base for global pharma, agriculture and technology, we had some of the busiest sea and air routes in Europe.

A lot of people come in and leave the country each day in normal times, tens of millions of journeys in and out each year.

Of course, that traffic has subsided greatly. We still have flights and sailings, but the great bulk is freight or essential journeys.

The air industry has claimed there is little connection between travel and Covid-19, as most of the transmission was community. But community transmission must start somewhere.

The first cases in Ireland came mainly from people coming back from skiing holidays in Austria and northern Italy. Many thousands of Irish people went on holidays to the Continent during the Summer – including a substantial number who went to countries like Spain, which were not on the ill-fated green list.

Some of the cases identified here in the Autumn came from a particular Spanish strain of the virus.

It remains to be seen if the new EU traffic light system works and if people take the (relatively expensive) tests before flying – or just ignore it, knowing there will be little chance of being sanctioned.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Best laid plans and programmes can fall foul of political reality

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Debate snub...Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

If architects’ plans were like the Programme of Government,

  1. the country would be full of unfinished buildings
  2. that would look nothing like the plans.

Prospective governments spend weeks – and sleepless nights – working out the programme that will be the blueprint for their term of office.

Some even produce a glossy self-congratulatory report each year, showing how many of its targets have been achieved.

Two things need to be said about that:

  1. They are subjective.
  2. Nobody outside the bubble pays any attention to them.

Some set out ambitious targets for the first 100 days of government. That idea has been around since the 1930s and is designed to show a signal of intent, that the new Government is going to put its money where its mouth is.

More often than not the new regime learns to its cost that it has bitten off more than it can chew. Achieving something in the world of politics within 100 days is like reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace during a lunch break.

  1. Not exactly impossible
  2. But not exactly possible

And do governments learn from these mistakes? Do they realise that it is a bit of a ridiculous concept?

  1. No
  2. No

There is a political problem here. You might achieve the big things in politics, you might get a wobbly economy back on to an even keel, you might create a historic record for employment, you might push through the six referendums you promised to liberalise society.

But it’s a bit like the guy who earns a reputation for not buying a round. No matter if he has devoted his life to the service of others, and has sacrificed everything for the personal good.

For more, read 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

Politics and law have been entwined through the ages

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Seamus Woulfe...at the centre of latest storm.

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

I remember when I was a kid there was an Irish rugby tour to apartheid South Africa which caused a huge furore, including a (if I remember correctly) a shouty row on The Late Late Show. One of the arguments used by those favouring the tour was: “Sports and politics should not mix.”

It went down well as a sound bite but was a nonsense; the reality is that politics mixes with everything, including sports. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

Politicians make decisions over how sport is funded, how it is governed and regulated (look at the recent row over John Delaney’s tenure), and sometimes when it can be played.

All sports organisations have their own internal politics which can be more vicious than the stuff that goes on in Leinster House. And political parties have long ago discovered the benefits of putting a high profile former sportsperson up as a candidate.

Which brings us onto the bigger issue: the separation of powers in the State. Our Constitution draws out a relationship between the three arms of State – the Executive (government), Judiciary and Parliament (the Oireachtas). The impression that has been handed down to us is they are three goldfish in different bowls, all swimming, but in different waters.

It just doesn’t work out like that in real life. For one, for most of the history of the State, parliament has essentially been a chattel of government, with no real separate powers of its own.

In recent years, with less stable majorities for government than in the past, that relationship has changed – but parliament is still very much subservient to central Government.

It’s not just lip service when it comes to relationships with the legal establishment. There is an effort to assert that they operate in separate spheres but real life often intrudes – it’s more or less impossible to maintain the divide, unless you do it artificially.

For one, it is politicians who appoint judges, not other judges. Now, of course, judges have a say in it. There is the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) which assesses the merits of lawyers who are not yet judges.

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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