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Labour demise and Sinn Fein rise tells poll story

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Eamon Gilmore

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The weekend was, as they say, a target-rich environment when it came to politics. For political junkies, elections are like All-Irelands. At every other time, you are mainly talking about possibilities, maybes and humming and hawing. But with elections you have only definitives.

And so this weekend, without equivocation, we knew who was up and who was down – a massive victory for Sinn Féin; a meltdown for Labour; Fine Gael in the relegation zone; Fianna Fáil and the Greens out of the naughty corner.

And the smaller parties and independents are all winning the junior and intermediate finals.

The picture was slightly complicated by the fact that there were three elections – the Europeans; the locals; and the by-elections.

With so many contests, parties can usually find a little consolation elsewhere – if you did badly in the locals as Fine Gael did, you can always point to the solid success of Gabrielle McFadden easily getting across the line in Longford/Westmeath.

But you would have had to have been an anchorite living on Oileán Mhic Dara for the last month to have avoided the two big narratives – the rise of Sinn Féin and the demise of Labour.

To reinforce the woes of the junior coalition partner, Eamon Gilmore surprised everybody by announcing on Monday that he was standing down. The last person to do that was Michael Noonan who resigned in 2002.

Let’s look at the Labour crisis first. The letter from the youth brigade of the parliamentary party did not trigger Gilmore’s decision to step down but I’m sure he was aware that something was in the offing. He had essentially made up his mind some 24 hours before the letter was conceived by the group of eight.

The composition of the group was interesting. Only one of the party’s awkward squad was among the signatories and it excluded others like Senators John Kelly and John Whelan. What was interesting is that many of the younger TDs who put their name to it were among Gilmore’s strongest defenders since 2011.

They included some of its brightest, like Galway West TD Derek Nolan, Aodhan Ó Ríordáin, Ciara Conway, and Gerald Nash.

It’s clear that they had become disillusioned with Gilmore’s style and manner of leadership and the roots of the discontent were probably apparent since the debacle surrounding the Meath East by-election last year.

That gave the party a clear shot across the bows that a change of style, direction and awkwardness was needed. The tail needed to be shown wagging the dog. Gilmore had to hand back his Aer Lingus frequent miles cards and concentrate on home. More Labour messages; more darned Labour-backed policies had to get through the door.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Guard changes but tough calls wait for another day

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Changing of the guard...Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sic transit gloria mundi. I used to love using that expression when I was a student. For obvious reasons. A. It had the right degree of pretension for a show-off like myself. B. It actually means something.

It should be engraved on the headstone of every politician. Enoch Powell had another way of saying it; all political careers end in failure.

Anyway we have another changing of the guard on December 17, where Micheál Martin steps down as Taoiseach and Leo Varadkar steps in. It might equally be described as moving the deckchairs on the Titanic, if you are an opposition TD.

Unless my political judgement is completely off beam, I think it will be Martin’s last spin as Taoiseach – making him shortest-lived Fianna Fáil Taoiseach, although, in fairness, Albert Reynolds did not last all that much longer than he.

Strangely enough he will remain as Fianna Fáil leader. For how long? Indefinitely. Martin has managed to be a better survivor than many of his predecessors. When he was elected party leader in 2011, many predicted he and the party would be gone by the next election. They weren’t.

Then they said he would be the first Fianna Fáil leader never to be Taoiseach. Then they said he would be gone as Fianna Fáil leader around the time he stood down as Taoiseach. He isn’t and there is a strong chance now he will lead his party into the next general election.

Why? Because there is not a ready-made natural-born Fianna Fáil leader among its parliamentary corps. Not yet, anyway.

If he survives to 2025 he will be actually the second longest serving Fianna Fáil leader after Eamon de Valera, outlasting Bertie Ahern and Charlie Haughey and Sean Lemass.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Greens set the bar high on seats for next local elections

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Eamon Ryan...brave ambitions.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

There we all were thinking the Greens were going to repeat what happened a decade ago and lose most, or all, of their seats in the next election. But then Eamon Ryan told the party’s annual convention last weekend that he wanted the party to grow and increase seats.

He even put a target on it – to double its number of council seats from 50 to 100 at the next local elections in 2024.

It’s a brave claim and there will be some that say the only target we see is the one on Eamon Ryan’s back.

We all know the fate of smaller parties in government in Ireland. And none should know it better than the Greens. They won six seats in 2007 and lost them all in 2011.

Of course, there were extenuating circumstances. They were unlucky enough to be tacked onto a Fianna Fáil party which had pumped up the economy to bulbous levels in the decade before they went into coalition together.

The only party to buck the trend for a smaller party coming out of coalition was the Progressive Democrats in 2002. However, that was only a reprieve; they were s annihilated in the following election in 2007.

Ryan’s argument is that there is always a percentage of the population who will back Green first and it is growing. That is true. But the reality is it’s not ten per cent of the population yet – it is closer to five. And that five per cent is concentrated in middle class urban areas.

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

Only sure thing in politics is nothing stays the same

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Galway in the 1950’s – how different is this to today.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

In less than a month’s time we will witness a first in Irish politics – the first instance of a Government which rotates its Taoiseach half way through the term.

It was due to happen on December 15, but it has been pushed back to allow Micheál Martin have his last hurrah – a final Summit in Brussels.

Then Leo Varakdar will come back for his second go – and if the Government lasts a full term, Varadkar’s two stints in the job will use about amount to one full term of five years.

It’s not the first time that a shared Taoiseach has been floated. Dick Spring suggested it to John Bruton in 1994. There was talk of Eamon Gilmore doing it with Enda Kenny before the 2011 general election. Enda Kenny suggested it to Micheál Martin in 2016.

Now it’s happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last time we will see it in the Irish political context – because the political landscape has altered irrevocably.

A majority of voters in Ireland identified with one tribe or another during most of the 20th century. Memories of the revolution and civil war were still fresh. The parties both represented different sections of society (although there were big swatches of common ground). Ireland was rural, isolated, Catholic, conservative. Even in the 1980s, the two big parties still pulled 80 per cent plus of the vote.

We have a WhatsApp group from my class in the Jes in the 1980s. One of the lads recently posted an aerial photography of Galway taken in the the late 1950s. The city of Galway was nothing more than small town.

Shantalla was a new estate on the far outskirts. There was no Cathedral. Taylor’s Hill was hitting open countryside once you got past St Mary’s Terrace. There were open fields leading from Sea Road down to the shore.

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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