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Political guessing game is like Third Secret of Fatima

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New TD Anne Rabbitte from Portumna being interrogated by journalists Jacqueline Hogge of the Tuam Herald and Stella Meehan of Galway Bay fm. Photo: Gerry Stronge.

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

In 1981 there was an international incident when an Aer Lingus plane was hijacked. The Minister of Transport at the time was Albert Reynolds and it was his job to brief the world media about the developing events.

Initially it was thought the hijacker was Iranian but it turned out he was an Australian called Larry Downey, a former Trappist Monk who was not the full shilling.

A BBC reporter asked Reynolds what the man who had held up the crew and passenger was?

“He wants us to reveal the Third Secret of Fatima,” replied Reynolds, in all seriousness. For that was indeed the deranged man’s bizarre demand.

“What on earth is that?” asked the BBC reporter.

The incredulous look Reynolds gave the reporter was hilarious. He just could not get it that somebody did not know what that was. “It’s a religious secret,” he finally said.

Since the end of February, I field one question twenty times a day. It’s what’s going to happen next?

I feel as able to give the answer as Albert Reynolds did when facing Larry Downey’s demands.

But unlike the BBC reporter, the situation which seems a bit banal and bizarre in objective terms, seems quite natural. What we are looking at now, essentially, is a “religious secret”.

There are only four options to consider between now and sometime in April when the final call will be made.

We could have a Fine Gael minority government; a Fianna Fáil minority government; a grand coalition between the two big parties – or another election.

The fourth scenario might happen but is the most unlikely. None of the big parties want an election to happen immediately because they sense (rightly) they will make no gains and will probably be punished for doing so.

So let’s look at the other three in a bit of detail to see if we can prise together the pros and cons of each.

Both of the big parties are a good deal short of a majority and, in reality, would need to rely on the other to form a government.

But that does not mean the other party has to support it on every occasion. If the other party were to abstain on key votes (Budgets, no confidence votes etc.) the target suddenly becomes more obtainable.

Since Seán O Fearghaíl’s election as Ceann Comhairle Fianna Fáil has 43 TDs in its block. If the party were to abstain that would mean you subtract 43 from 157 to give you the number of votes in the mix. It would leave 114 which would mean Fine Gael would need to muster 57 votes.

It has 50 at present so would require a further seven locked-in votes. One of those is Michael Lowry’s even though Fine Gael hasn’t asked for it. So it would need at least another six.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Three snapshots to show the shifting sands of time

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Border poll...Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Three snapshots of Ireland in the here and now -and none of them have to do with Covid-19. But each of them, in its own way, shows the shifting sands of politics and, indeed, of society.

1. The North

On Tuesday the UK foreign secretary Liz Truss announced she would be introducing new legislation which will radically re-engineer the Northern Protocol.

The Protocol is a bit of a tough nut to crack when it comes to explaining. It is essentially the rules that have been laid down to allow the North stay in the EU’s common market.

Goods originating from the North and being exported to the EU (and obviously the South is in the EU) do not have to have any checks. But goods coming over from Britain to Northern Ireland have had to be checked to comply with EU standards.

Of course, that added layers of bureaucracy especially for foods and medicines. And an effective border down the Irish Sea.

About 85 percent of the goods coming into the North from the UK stay in the North. But if they allowed all goods to come in without checking that would make the North a handy backdoor to bring sub-par goods and materials into the EU.

Politicians down here have said the North has the best of both worlds: access to the EU markets while being part of the UK. But it just has not worked out like that, whether that’s a psychological block or a real one, I’m not sure.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Election drama – but now the long stalemate begins

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Winners...Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill triumphant in the North.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sinn Féin’s historic victory in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections was accompanied by the slick choreography the party has perfected when it comes to celebrating its wins.

The party leaders are treated like rockstars when they arrive into count centres. Selfies are not used to take photographs of yourself. They are used as vehicles to allow other photographers to take photographs of you taking a selfie.

You can’t quibble though at the triumph. Over 250,000 people voted for Sinn Féin in the Assembly elections.

That might have been an increase of only one per cent and the party, with 27 seats, may not have increased its number of seats in the 90-seat assembly- but it was the relative position of Sinn Féin to others that matter.

The DUP saw its vote share tumble by 6.7 per cent to 21.3 percent and lost three seats, bringing its total to 25.

More pertinently for Sinn Féin its great nationalist rival, the SDLP, had a lousy election. It lost four seats, and saw its vote share slip by almost three per cent to nine per cent, relegating it to the fifth biggest party in the Assembly.

The other big shift in the election was the surge in Alliance seats. It more than doubled its representation to 17 (from eight) and saw an increase of almost five points in its vote share.

It was a triumph for Naomi Long and her party, and showed that Alliance has really extended its base beyond soft unionism to take in those (including a growing constituency in the nationalist community) who no longer subscribe to identity politics.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Chasm of distrust remains between both communities

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Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill: potential Northern Ireland First Minister.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

If you look at the text of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement you will find that the bulk of the most bitter, the most divisive, and the most contentious issues were not really dealt with.

They were ‘parked’ to be dealt with at a later date. The biggest issue, of course, was decommissioning. That took seven long, exhausting and arduous years to sort out. But sorted out it was in 2005 when Séanna Walsh read out a statement from the IRA saying it was standing down.

Many of the other disputes have never really been sorted out – flags and emblems, the Irish language, North-South institutions – and are still ‘live’. Politics in the North is still defined by identity and the Tribe, with the preponderance of people voting along green or orange lines (although in less volumes with each succeeding election).

So many things have not been sorted out. There is still a chasm of distrust between both communities. Brexit has exacerbated divisions.

All those fudges are now almost a quarter of a century in existence without being sorted. Yes, it is imperfect. But it’s still infinitely better than what went before.

I had a quick check back to see the last time I wrote a substantive piece about the North in this column. It was April 2020, a full two years ago, and that was to mark the passing of John Hume, a colossus figure in Northern politics. The situation may be imperfect but that trumps violence every day of the week.

The Assembly elections this week might result in a historic shift in the North. For some that should have meant the end of sectarian-driven politics and a politics-as-usual scenario, where day-to-day issues such as cost-of-living, health services, education and infrastructure were debated.

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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