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Mid-term votes offer an indicator after all

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Watching the votes....will there be a re-run of this scene at the Bailey Allen Hall? Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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

One of the cardinal rules for political commentators is to discount secondary elections – bye-elections, locals, Presidential and European – when it comes to indicating the lie of the land.

It’s because they are usually held mid-term and the received wisdom is they do not give a good guide as to what happens in the general election.

The reason for that stems from a history of strong governments having lousy mid-term elections. During its long period of power, Fianna Fáil had a number of indifferent local elections – and it made not a whit of difference when it came to the general election.

That phenomenon was probably at its most obvious across the water in Britain during the Blair years. Labour had some abysmal local elections, ceding shire after shire to the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. Yet Blair romped up in three successive wins.

These second-tier elections are usually held in mid-term when people don’t really care as much, or think as much, about their choice of government. And there are always a range of other reasons to vote.

Many councillors, irrespective of party allegiance, will win support based on their recognisability, and work in the community. European elections have become beauty contests, devoid of context or of issues.

They are all the reasons that they have stayed as discounted goods.

But a funny thing has happened in the past two local elections, in 2009 and 2014. They have almost exactly mirrored the support levels for each party. In 2009, the locals saw massive falls in support for the ruling government parties, Fianna Fáíl and the Greens. The latter lost 13 of its 16 council seats, ending up with only three.

That pattern repeated itself in the election. Both Fine Gael and Labour made significant gains in that election – signalling a surge for them.

The only anomaly was Sinn Féin. It had a poor election in 2007. It had a poor local election in 2009, returning about 50 seats, the same as it had. The swing towards the party started later, from the autumn of 2010.

And then in 2014, the local elections showed swings that would be repeated in this year’s general election. Sinn Féin almost tripled its seats. It was starting from a low base but it was now commanding support of 15 per cent, which it repeated in the February elections. Labour’s stock plummeted, losing over 80 seats and ending up with 50. Its seven per cent support is what it would get in the election. Similarly Fianna Fail rose to 25, with Fine Gael at 24. That was a proximate enough to their general election performances.

What does it tell us? Well, local elections are held closer to general elections these days (less than two years) and the big election does not seem quite so remote. Secondly, the State has been in such turmoil over the past eight years that parties have been on a general election footing.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

The only thing Boris Johnson actually believes in is himself

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Boris Johnson...clinging on despite all the odds.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

This is a column that is a little bit about a political question – and a lot about how political leaders manage to cling on to power. The political question is the Northern Protocol, and the leader clinging on – despite all the odds – is, who else, but Boris Johnson.

How he has managed to stay in 10 Downing Street defies all precedent. Many of his predecessors have fallen on their swords for much, much less.

Since becoming Prime Minister, Johnson has careered from crisis to crisis, disaster to disaster. When it was agreed by the EU and the UK, he hailed the Northern Ireland Protocol as a triumph.

As the Prime Minister he ousted, Theresa May, reminded him in the Commons this week when she was speaking of his low stock among international leaders: “Actually, I suspect they are saying to themselves why should they negotiate in detail with a government that shows itself willing to sign an agreement, claim it as a victory, and then try and tear it apart in three years’ time?”

That’s a good question. Johnson is now trying to destroy something he partly created. And the litany of other contradictions run deep. He spent weeks going around the place joking about Covid, shaking hands, and downplaying its seriousness. Then he caught it and almost died from it.

The number of deaths in Britain from Covid were among the highest, pro rata, anywhere. It would have downed another leader. But not Johnson.

In fairness, the British were the first to come out with mass vaccinations even though the decision to extend the time period before the first and second jab was not a great one in retrospect.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Varadkar/Doherty spat a portent of things to come

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar on his feet, attacking Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, in the Dáil last week.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

For those who watched in anticipation to see what would happen between Henry Shefflin and Brian Cody after Galway’s Leinster Final loss to Kilkenny, they were waiting for the type of tetchy encounter that happens on a regular basis in the Dáil.

Trading insults is part-and-parcel of parliamentary proceedings but there are occasions – and they have become more frequent of late – when they become visceral. It can happen when somebody needles or provokes an opponent into saying something personal.

The most infamous, of course, is Green Party TD Paul Gogarty telling Labour’s Emmet Stagg to “f*** off”. But there are legions of examples, including from those who were normally very good at keeping their composure in the face of provocation.

That included Bertie Ahern who was so riled by Gay Mitchell’s accusation of him putting up a smokescreen on financial policies in 1994 that he shouted across the chamber at the Fine Gael Deputy.

“Nobody’s smoke-screening,” he shouted. “Perhaps if you stopped waffling, if you stopped waffling, we might get some work done. You’re a waffler, you’ve been years around here waffling.”

The needle between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin has been consistent for years, invariably following a familiar theme.

Sinn Féin accuses Fine Gael of being an out-of-touch elite, an old boy’s network, unconcerned about the plight of ordinary people.

In turn, Fine Gael accused Sinn Féin of being a party with shady finances, shady people and a shady past. When the going gets tough, it offers a menu of tax-dodgers, criminals, murderers, and murky finances that have made it the richest party in the country.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Refugee crisis leaves state holding political hot potato

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Minister Eamon Ryan...’really challenging situation’.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The picture at Moran’s Red Cow Hotel last weekend was not one that would lift the soul. It showed conference rooms being used to provide emergency accommodation for asylum seekers, with mattresses scattered across the floors.

But it’s not a surprise; the numbers of refugees and people seeking international protection has gone through the roof in the first five months of the year.

There has been a 600 per cent increase in the number of people applying for international protection in Ireland in the first five months of 2022, compared to a similar period last year.

The number of people who have applied for asylum in Ireland in the first five months of 2022 is close to 5,000, which is almost twice the total of 2,649 for the entire 12 months of 2021.

This cohort of people is separate from the estimated 24,000 refugees who have been offered accommodation by the State or by private individuals.

You can’t but surmise that the increase in numbers is caused in part by the tough new policy in the UK where asylum seekers are being flown to Rwanda for processing.

In all there are 35,000 people (including those from Ukraine) in emergency or direct provision accommodation in Ireland in 2022, compared to only 6,500 people last year. The comprises 24,000 Ukrainians and 11,000 asylum seekers. It’s over five times the number, and it’s still only June.

That sheer volume has put authorities here under considerable strain to find adequate accommodation.

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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