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Leaving the stage – Rabbitte the most political of animals

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On his way....former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte – here with President Michael D Higgins during his time as a Galway West TD – at a Connacht Championship game between Galway and Mayo at the Pearse Stadium.

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

As exits go, Greece may claim the bigger headlines – but Yanis Varoufakis wasn’t the only larger-than-life politician to announce his departure from the political stage this week; we’re losing one of our best known political animals too….a Rabbitte to be precise about it.

The former Labour leader – a graduate of NUIG and former president of the Students Union – announced earlier this week that he will not be standing in the next general election, either early next year or very late in 2015.

It’s clear Pat Rabbitte’s decision was resisted by party headquarters. Its handlers released some internal polling figures over the weekend that showed that he was the party’s strongest hope of winning a seat in Dublin South West, the new five-seat constituency encompassing working-class Tallaght, and middle class Templeogue and Rathfarnham.

Labour did exceptionally well there in 2011, winning two seats out of four with Eamon Maloney taking the second seat for Labour.

Now as an expanded five seaters, Sinn Féin and the Paul Murphy of the Socialist Party look strong and well placed to take three seats out of five, with the fourth seat going to Fine Gael.

As for the fifth? Well Fianna Fáil’s John Lahart is not showing up and fine TD as he is, Maloney is a very understated guy – and being understated is not an attribute you normally associate with a politician .

Rabbitte is the third former leader of the Labour Party to announce in recent months that he will not be contesting the next election – following the announcements of Ruairí Quinn and Eamon Gilmore.

Already in the corridors of Leinster House there are whispers that with its support struggling (and failing) to get out of single-digit figures, we might see older and more established Labour Party TDs doing the same thing as a legion of Fianna Fáilers did in the run-up to the 2011 general election, when they saw the writing on the wall.

Virtually the entire Cabinet put up the white flag including outgoing leader Brian Cowen, Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey. In fairness, some of the outgoing TDs were willing to stand but were told in no uncertain terms that they couldn’t.

The reason? There was more than one outgoing Fianna Fáil deputy in those constituencies and the blunt reality was the party had no chance of retaining any seat in those areas if it did not run a single candidate.

So the second (such as Noel O’Flynn in Cork North Central) was told to take one for the team.

It’s a little different for Rabbitte. For one, he is not resigning because he has been reading the tea leaves and sees little chance of winning a seat.

His reasons are more to do with his ministerial career having come to an end and the ennui that would come to a life on the back benches of Dáil Eireann.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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.

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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.

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Connacht Tribune

Heat is on for action over climate change

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Red hot...temperatures soared across Europe this week.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The hottest day I remember in my life was when we went on holiday to Crete over 20 years ago. The temperature was in the forties and you could hardly move in the heat.

My stand-out memory is of my wife Fiona buying an ice cream cone for me in a town called Chania. It melted all over her hands during the 30 or so steps it took to get to me.

This week, Ireland recorded its hottest day in the 20th or 21st century when the Phoenix Park in Dublin hit 33 degrees Celsius. It’s not the highest on record though; that dates all the way back to 1887 – 33.3 Celsius at Kilkenny Castle.

Every time we have an extreme weather event, someone is inevitably going to pop up and say: “That’s global warming.”

It is and it isn’t. It isn’t because the temperature in Kilkenny Castle during the 19th Century reminds us that we have always go extremes of hot and cold, of rain, of wind, of storms.

However, it is the patterns and the more frequent recurrence of such events that illustrate that climate change is happening and the planet is heating. It’s one degree warmer now than it was in preindustrial times. If the mercury continues to rise, the planet is going to be in deep trouble.

As Met Éireann’s head of forecasting Evelyn Cusack said this week: “Unfortunately, climate change is here. When we get the air masses coming up from Europe, we too will experience some extreme weather and extreme weather events.”

This particular heatwave for us is the tail of the comet. The comet itself is Europe which has been in full heatwave mode for a few weeks, as has much of the Northern hemisphere.

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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