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Labour puts the boot in to show they’re on the ball

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All hands on deck....Labour leader Joan Burton and her party's key Ministers Alan Kelly, Brendan Howlin and Jan O'Sullivan at their conference in Killarney.

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

Former Irish soccer international and manager Mick McCarthy was once challenged on why he cleared the ball over the touchline so often while defending.

“Well, I’ve never seen anybody score from Row G,” was his laconic reply.

McCarthy’s method for keeping the opposition at bay wasn’t pretty. But it was effective.

At their party convention at the weekend, Labour went big on the velvet when it came to presentation and even bigger on the bludgeon when dealing with their opponents.

Alan Kelly, unsurprisingly, led the charge, with a couple of energetic “put ‘em under pressure” speeches that would have done Big Mick and Jack Charlton proud.

Leader Joan Burton might have acquired a new soft voice but she is still a hard chaw – she baited Fianna Fáil all weekend with a slightly mischievous suggestion that the party now favours increased taxes for everybody earning over €35,000. And her keynote speech left no hostages to fortune.

It was left to the rather less dramatic Brendan Howlin to spell out the detail of how Labour will frame its main messages.

Howlin outlined plans for a forum that will consider pay, tax and overall spending. It’s part of the new “national economic dialogue”, which is not social partnership. Erm, how so? It sounds very much like it but this time around it will all be held in open, and not behind closed doors as social partnership was.

Back in 2007, Enda Kenny said that year’s election would be a referendum on the health services.

It wasn’t. It was about the economy. So will next year’s.

Or to be more accurate, there are many reasons why people vote how they do. They include social issues like same sex marriage, or child care costs, or climate change, or their vestigial republicanism (1916 and all that).

Still, the economy trumps all. Howlin’s promise of a forum and pay increases will appeal to the party’s base in the public sector. As will Fine Gael’s promises of lower taxes appeal to theirs.

It’s strange that the British general election is only a few months away, yet there seems to be a greater urgency among the political parties here.

In opposition, the watchword of every politician is reform. But as we have seen so often, the MiWadi effect occurs as soon as they get into power, everything becomes “dilute to taste”.

It’s not to say it will not be different this time. The old certainties of the two party hegemony are a thing of the past.

In reality the support for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil has slowly been eroded over 30 years but that was partly masked by support for Fianna Fáil during the good years, when it was see as the natural party of government.

All of that changed in 2011 when the political certainties was turned on its head. Is that change permanent. Yes and No. I think that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will probably re-establish themselves as the two big parties after the next election but not with the big gap between them and everybody else.

Sinn Féin is a big player now and is here to stay, with a long-term aim of displacing Fianna Fáil as the leading republican party. At that stage its present left-wing leanings will have dissipated.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Mini pause proves there are no easy routes to recovery

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Melbourne...continuous lockdown for most of the past two years.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

You think we have it bad this week – what with the delay in a full reopening?  You could be living in Melbourne. The city with a population of five million has been under almost continuous lockdown for most of the past two years.

Since March 2020, there have been 262 days of lockdown in Melbourne, across six periods where people’s movements were incredibly restricted. That included curfews between 9pm and 5am.

Australia and New Zealand were two of only a handful of countries in the world which pursued elimination, rather than containment, strategies with the virus, or Zero Covid as it was called.

For a long time, it seemed like the correct strategy, the one setting the standard. Both countries clamped down hard with very restrictive lockdowns and effectively closed their borders.

They threw all their resources into testing, contact tracing and even testing the wastewater. Those who were identified as cases and close contacts were isolated. The countries also introduced mandatory hotel quarantine.

And it was very effective; when the Alpha (Essex) strain hit Ireland and other countries in December and January, both countries were fully open and enjoying unrestricted access to stadiums, hotels, restaurants, schools. Anytime, there was the hint of an outbreak strict local and regional lockdowns were imposed, some for several weeks, some for longer.

Sure, there were long and severe lockdowns. But there was also a lot of freedom, over 450 days without restrictions.

The strategy only worked if you cut off the country completely from all other countries in the world. New Zealand, for example, did that because it did not have sufficient capacity to deal with the kind of crisis China and Italy had faced, when people died because they could not be intubated, or there were not enough ventilators to go around.

There were downsides. The cost, for one, was exceptionally high. It meant a huge diminution in people’s personal rights. Limited availability in mandatory quarantine hotels meant a lot of New Zealanders and Australians living abroad were prevented from returning home.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Budget throws up history of drama on Dáil’s longest day

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The longest day...Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

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

It’s the biggest set-piece of the year in Irish politics, the one day of the political calendar when the Dáil chamber is full to the brim. And no matter how much the body politic is bludgeoned, Budget Day remains special.

There are some years in which the budgets are pass-remarkable but, then again, there are some years in which the budgets are just bloody remarkable.

In modern times none can really touch the drama of Charlie McCreevy’s announcement of decentralisation in December 2003. If it were to be done today, people would nod all round and say that’s a sensible enough proposal. But back then the notion of tens of thousands of public servants making an exodus from Dublin to the provinces was unfathomable and unthinkable.

The 2007 Budget was something else to behold. It was the middle of the Celtic Tiger and there were concerns that the economy was overheating to a point that the boiler was about to explode – even if nobody fully realised it at the time. More critically there was an election to be won.

At the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis before the election Bertie Ahern read out a shopping list of giveaways, harking back to the infamous Fianna Fáil manifesto of 30 years beforehand.

Ahern had been before the Planning Tribunal to explain political contributions and hand-outs he himself had got from his friends. The feelgood budget helped divert some of the heat away – and ultimately, it was enough to win the party a historic third term in government.

By the following spring, Ahern was gone and by that summer everything had ‘come to a shuddering halt’, to employ the phrase of the late Brian Lenihan Junior. Giveaway budgets tend to come back and bite you in the nether regions.

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

NDP reheats old dishes – while kicking other cans down the road

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan at the launch of this week's National Development Plan in Cork.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The new National Development Plan may be 180 pages long – but the vast majority of the 220 TDS and Senators would have confined their reading to one or two pages. Digested down, they read only what was relevant to their own neck of the woods – whether or not that school or hospital was being funded into the future, or if that long-promised road was going to get the go-ahead.

Even when it’s €165 million over a decade, when you boil it down, it never seems to add up to all that much when the local components are grouped together.

So what is the West getting? There’s the Moycullen bypass, but that’s happening already. The ring road around Galway is included, but that’s been talked about for over a decade now with no guarantee it will be finished within the lifetime of this plan.

There’s a new Emergency Department and ward block included for University Hospital Galway, which will be a big investment, and a welcome one. It’s likely that one of the three new elective hospital facilities under Sláintecare will be established in Galway, which will be a boost to the city and the region.

NUI Galway will also get a regeneration of its library under the plan.

There’s no such luck for the Western Rail Corridor. After a plethora of studies, the can is being kicked down the road again with yet another study.

The NDP says: “A Strategic Rail Review has recently been launched which will examine all aspects of the inter-urban and inter-regional rail network including decarbonising the railway, the feasibility of higher speeds, increased capacity, improved connectivity to the North-West and the enhancement of the Dublin to Mullingar railway line and the creation of a strategic plan for freight. The Western Rail corridor has the potential to revitalise the West of Ireland and the Strategic rail review will examine how it would be delivered.”

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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