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Politicians unable to crack people’s code

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

Whenever a new government is formed it will be our equivalent of Dagen H. That was the day in 1967 that Sweden decided to switch from driving on the left hand side of the road to the right. What ensued was temporary chaos and confusion. After a while this strange new arrangement began to become normalised.

It is over one month since the country voted in the General Election. Now, the pathway to government formation looks as uncertain as it did when the results first came in. When the people spoke they did so in a coded language that no politician has yet been able to crack.

It’s not yet the longest period between election and Government that has been seen in the State. After the general election in November 1992 it took 42 days to form a Government. There was no difficulty with actual numbers back then: it was more to do with existential matters.  Fianna Fáil and Labour had separately to absorb a fundamental sea-change in core direction.

This time both problems exist, existential and numbers. And they are writ large.  There is a slim chance a government will be in place on April 6th when the Dáil returns for a second time to vote on nominations for Taoiseach. But given the piecemeal progress in discussions so far, it still looks more likely that it will be mid April before a new government is through the gap.

The most likely scenario emerging is a minority government led by Enda Kenny. But if that is the case, it will be a very different type of administration to  any that has been seen before. It

The enormity of the task was borne home last week when Fine Gael stated its first major move with a day-long session involving its negotiators and 15 Independent and two Green Party TDs. With advisers and officials there were over 50 people packed into a room in Government buildings for over six hours.

Fine Gael’s approach marked a big departure from previous discussions on government formation. For one, Fine Gael made a decision it would produce no document setting out where it stands. This is highly unusual as a document is always seen as the foundation block of any negotiations. In 1992, Fianna Fáil adviser Martin Mansergh scoured the Labour manifesto looking for points of agreement and produced a document that chimed with Dick Spring’s policy objectives.

If you go back to the foundation of the State, the Treaty was based on a document written by the British prime minister David Lloyd George. The advantage of having a document is that even though amendments are sure to be made, it is your document. Therefore, its central principles are likely to survive even the tensest of talks.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Will ‘vaccine bounce’ prove crucial to by-election victory?

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Noel Treacy...a rare by-election win for the ruling party.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

By-elections sometimes mean everything – and sometimes they mean nothing at all. Because often, by the time a general election takes place, they have faded away into the past. They have no impact at all on the national level.

That doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some memorable and crucial by-elections.

Like way back in 1982, when Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, who had a minority government, engineered a coup by nominating a Fine Gael TD, Richard Burke, to be Ireland’s European Commissioner.

Burke was a TD for Dublin West which was a Fianna Fáil stronghold at the time. The idea was the party’s candidate would win the subsequent by-election to give Fianna Fáil a majority in the Dáil.

But things did not go to script. Fine Gael’s candidate was a local businessman named Liam Skelly who bucked the trend by taking the seat in an audacious victory for Fine Gael.

Another significant by-election was in 2010 in Donegal South West. Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher had won a seat in the European Parliament in 2009 and the Fianna Fáil-led government had dilly-dallied over holding an election to fill the vacant seat.

The long-fingering eventually resulted in a court case taken by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty – which he won, amid huge publicity.

The narrative, of course, was that Fianna Fáil were trying to shut him out. By that stage they probably were. Doherty won a massive victory for his party, getting elected in the first count.

I have always believed that this victory alone provided much of the momentum for the big gains Sinn Féin made in the following election.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Vaccine programme shows we’ve turned Covid corner

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Success story…Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking with peer vacinator Anne Kennedy and clinical lead Sharon Fahy on his visit the Ballybrit Vaccination Centre in Galway.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Are we near the end? Have we finally got on top of Covid-19 for good?  Certainly, the news coming from the vaccination programme is good. More than good – it’s brilliant. The whole thing has been run so efficiently that we did a double-take at the signage in the centre to make sure they were in English and Irish, and not in German.

In Ireland, governments get very rare victories – but this has been one. More than one million jabs – between 250,000 to 300,000 each week – will have been given out during May alone.

That looks set to continue apace in June – despite the huge disruption caused to the Health Services Executive by the cyberattack from Russian hackers – with well over a million administered then.

At this moment, those in the age range of 40 upwards are getting vaccines or are getting appointments. Of course, there is always uncertainty over supplies (AstraZeneca and Janssen supplies have had periods of being sporadic). But the workhorse of the system, Pfizer BioNTech, has continued to deliver, and at scale.

So it now looks like the Government will meet its target of giving at least one vaccination shot to 82 per cent of the eligible population by the end of June.

Given the challenges involved with a nationwide programme, it is some achievement.

Being over the age of 50, I got my shot last week. It was all done seamlessly: I registered online, got a text a few days later telling me to go to the Aviva two days later.

It was strange lining up with people the same age as you, to see how kind or otherwise age had been to them. It took about two hours and the queuing was a bit like the rigmarole you go through when boarding an aircraft. But it was grand. It was all very smooth.

At this moment, about 18 to 20 percent of the population is fully vaccinated (having got two shots). Most of those are in the older cohort.

You can see the impact that has had. While daily case numbers have stayed stubbornly around the 400 mark, the number of deaths and hospitalisations has fallen.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Johnson once again shows his disdain for Irish matters

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Boris Johnson: anger over his apology to families.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

After half a century, almost a lifetime, a thin beam of justice seemed finally to appear for the families of the 10 people shot dead by British Army paratroopers in Ballymurphy, Belfast in August 1971.

The Belfast Coroner found that all 10 were innocent and that nine had been shot by British Army paratroopers, at a time when internment had been introduced. There was uncertainty about who shot the tenth person, with the possibility of a loyalist paramilitary not being totally excluded.

Among those who had been killed were a mother of eight, and a parish priest. The Coroner said she was convinced the priest was a peacemaker who was shot in the back.

Last week his brother, Patsy, now in his 80s said: “It was nice to hear that. He was a peacemaker. For 50 years, my brother was accused of being a gunman, which was all untrue. I knew it was untrue, but people didn’t know it.”

It’s terrible to think of the legacy of such acts, how people have to carry that sense of injustice with them for a lifetime. We have seen it with the victims of the Stardust Fire, or the various State institutions that incarcerated children (and expectant mothers); of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and indeed, of the 1971 Arms Plot trail.

The response of political parties in this State to the Ballymurphy verdict was uniform. The Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he hoped it would bring some solace to the family survivors who have spent so many fruitless years campaigning for justice. Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney referred to it shining a light of justice on a particularly dark era in Northern history.

The response from Sinn Féin was more flinty. Michelle O’Neill spoke about it being murder. The party leader Mary Lou McDonald pointed to the imminent move by the British Government to give amnesty to those accused of criminal acts in the period before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Unfortunately, the response of the British Government was also uniform. It was not surprising that there was an angry reaction to Boris Johnson’s apology to the families.

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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