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Kenny shows his ruthless streak to shake up Fine Gael landscape in Galway West

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

How can you evaluate Hildegarde Naughton’s elevation to the Seanad? A surprise comparable to Galway beating Armagh in Pearse Stadium last Saturday? Hmmm, not quite – more a surprise comparable to if London had beaten Mayo in McHale Park last Sunday.

The new Fine Gael senator has easily the most exotic name in parliament (Fianna Fáil senator Camillus Glynn retired in 2011) and is a politician with undoubted ability and a lot of promise.

From the Oranmore side of the city, she represents the western suburbs of the city, so her voter base potentially straddles both sides of the Galway urban area. She polled a respectable 3,606 (or a third of a quota) in the 2011 General Election, and wasn’t very far behind the three other candidates. 

She has also been Mayor of Galway and with her musical background will give new meaning to the political spin-meisters desire to have an “all singing and all dancing candidate”.

I met her and her mother canvassing around the town of Ashbourne for Helen McEntee during her successful campaign in the Meath East by-election earlier this year. She certainly has the dedication and the perseverance and the smarts for national politics.

It’s not that Naughton doesn’t deserve her elevation – it’s just that if you were thinking about it coldly, there are many other places in the country in bad need of a strong Fine Gael presence.

Dublin North West – where the party has no TD – is one that springs to mind. Or Laois and Offaly where there will be two constituencies each with three seats the next time around – and Fine Gael would have a biddable chance of winning a seat in at least one.

Enda Kenny’s decision to appoint Naughton adds to a very healthy complement of parliamentarians from the two Galway constituencies – 14 in all, and 15 if you include Ronan Mullen). But her appointment is also very telling about Kenny’s thinking on two distinct matters – his attitude towards those who defied the party whip over abortion; and what his opponents say is his utterly cynical attitude to the Seanad.

On a strict and steely analysis of Fine Gael’s chances of electoral success in Galway West, the decision does not make a huge amount of sense.

The party already has two TDs in situ and a Senator who certainly believes that one of the two seats should have gone in her direction.

Moreover, the addition of a healthy chunk of South Mayo – nine electoral areas around Ballinrobe – coming into Galway West, there is also the prospect of John O’Mahony migrating south in the hunt for votes.

I’ve never been convinced that this is a serious option for O’Mahony. He would have to rely on a big Galway vote and that would mean an incursion into Sean Kyne country. I don’t believe O’Mahony will move in the same way I don’t believe Micheál Kitt will move from Galway East into Roscommon/Galway.

Even without O’Mahony it’s a crowded field. And while it was certain that Naughton would be a candidate in the next General Election, what Kenny has done has been to promote her into the second slot in the constituency after Kyne.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Housing policy can make or break Fianna Fáil’s future

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Faded glory...the Corrib Great Southern Hotel.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

When you approach Galway City from the east, you come across it as soon as you clear Merlin Park – standing out like a sore thumb; a sentinel warning us that buildings like humans fall victim to the ravages of time and to fortune.

The Corrib Great Southern Hotel is the city’s biggest eyesore and has been for many years. It’s a huge hulk of a building; vacant for many years, heavily vandalised, its windows smashed or boarded-up, its once-pristine grounds now overgrown.

Built in 1970, it’s long way away from its heyday when, in an era of optimism, it became the CIE-owned Great Southern Hotel Group’s most modern hotel.

We were kids when it was operating fully and it seemed to be thriving, as a hotel, wedding venue and for dinner dances.

All of that seems a long time ago now. The hotel has been vacant for a hell of a long time (since 2007) and in a way has become a symbol of Galway’s housing crisis.

All the more so because it stands across a roundabout from the gleaming new Garda headquarters and also the wonderfully revamped GMIT.

It’s been due for demolition for a long time and has been on the derelict site register since 2015 – but no action has been taken despite statutory orders on the registered owners.

In one way, the hotel is a symbol of the inertia of successive governments in tackling the housing crisis in Ireland. The inaction in relation to it is replicated across the board in Galway and in all other Irish counties.

The roots of the current housing crisis have its beginnings in the Celtic Tiger years when local authorities stopped developing their own housing and left it to the private market.

A big part of the strategy was Part V housing, where developers had to earmark ten per cent of all new developments for social housing.

The second hammer blow was the recession. When the money ran out after 2009, one of the first casualties was capital funding for housing.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Labour’s awakenings will take time to reap any real reward

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Passing of the baton...Michael D Higgins with his successor Derek Nolan at the Galway West count at Leisureland.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The film Awakenings was based on the experience of the psychiatrist Oliver Sacks with patients who had contracted a disease called encephalitis lethargica during and shortly after World War I.

Thousands contracted it around the world. How they got it has remained a mystery but it could have been connected to the Spanish Flu outbreak at the time.

It essentially left them in a catatonic state, sleeping, unmoving, like zombies for decades. By the time Sacks came across a group of them in New York, they were all residents of an institution called the Beth Abrams Home for the Incurable.

That did not leave much to the imagination. Some of these people had been essentially sleeping for over 40 years.

He experimented with a drug called L-dopa, which had been used successfully for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.

The effect was extraordinary; the drug was like an electric shock that jolted the patients back to life and to sentient existence.

The ‘miracle’ had its drawbacks, however. After a while, it became difficult to control the patients as they became increasingly manic. Ultimately a tough decision was taken to withdraw the drug and the patients relapsed into their catatonic states.

All of that is a bit of a stretched way of saying ‘flash in the pan’, but life sometimes teaches us that success can be very temporary indeed.

There is a long pattern in Irish politics, for example, of a winner in a by-election going on to win a seat in the subsequent general election. However, less than six months after winning a by-election in Wexford, Malcolm Byrne of Fianna Fáil got turfed out in the general election.

Look at it the other way. Sinn Féin were the big losers of the 2019 local elections but turned the ship around completely less than nine months later. The lesson to be learned is success or failure is never a permanent phenomenon in politics.

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

Changing political landscape fast becoming Double Dutch

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Big winner...Ivan Bacik after her by-election victory.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Holland is so used to enduring a perennial political log-jam – where every election just digs you deeper and deeper into a rut – that they’ve actually come up with their own name for it.

It’s called Dutchification – when society has become so urbanised, and globalised, and fragmented, and lacking cohesion, that no party, or parties, can expect to win any more.

The former RTÉ journalist Peter Cluskey wrote a very interesting article last week about this continued electoral limbo they have in Holland, where he’s been based for many years.

And truth be told, the same is happening here; the day of overall majorities is long gone.

We have gone from having two large parties to having three medium sized ones (and with the demise of Fianna Fáil it could even by two medium sized ones, or one large and one medium).

The reality is that it will be difficult for the foreseeable future for any two parties to form a coalition, and it could be difficult for any three parties to do the same.

The old fealties to the three long-established parties have been blown out of the water.

The biggest pool of voters now has no permanent loyalty. They are the floaters.

And there is a growing ‘none of the above’ contingent too, possibly spurred on by the cynicism, empty populism and downright lies, of social media.

They will vote for a party that opposes the government. And once that party they support goes into government, they immediately withdraw their support for it. Short of coming up for an elixir that guarantees everlasting joyous life, these voters will never support a party in government.

I know it sounds cynical but if you talk to enough people around the country – as I always try to do – the person with a deeply cynical disposition and a hate of politicians is no longer a rarity.

Sinn Féin is the growing party at the moment and – from this vantage point – looks like it will be in government for the next spin.

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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