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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

Can Coalition hitch its wagon to the post-pandemic boom?

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Timing...Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

It’s one of those things that happens after prolonged and seismic events – like wars or pandemics – when the end triggers an understandable celebration, ahead of readjustment and some chaos … all followed by a relatively prolonged period of growth.

In America after World War 2 it was spectacular and lasted for three decades, helped by the advent of the Cold War and the creation of that terrible Dr Strangelove phrase – the military industrial complex.

Britain had been devastated by the war and many families returning to cities after being abroad fighting, or having been evacuated to the country, found they had no homes.

But within a relatively short period, rebuilding was underway in a massive way, giving rise to marked increases in consumer spending and a long uninterrupted period of growth.

Its debt was enormous after the war but as the economy grew – on the back of Keynesian ideas – it did not become the burden that some predicted it would.

The nearest analogous event to this pandemic is the one that happened almost a century ago, the Spanish Flu between 1918 and 1920.

Economies – especially that of the US – bounced back strongly with the US experiencing a decade of growth and the so-called Roaring Twenties.

The bounce was not attributable solely to the flu but to the end of World War 1 also. As the decade wore on growth increasingly became a bubble that was pricked in 1929.

So what can we expect during 2022? With society fully reopened there is no doubt that Ireland (and most of Europe) will experience a consumer boom.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

It’s those little things that always get you in the end

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Champagne time...the Department of Foreign Affairs tweet.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Albert Reynolds’ greatest legacy to the language of politics was his philosophical reflection on the sudden end to his time as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil.

“It’s the little things that trip you up,” he ruefully admitted – and he made a fair point.

He was the Taoiseach who delivered the Downing Street Declaration and the IRA’s first ceasefire in August 1994. Yet he fell on his sword because of a row that was so obscure that few people now remember it, and fewer people remember what it was.

It was the Duggan case, which was about a sexual abuser whose extradition might, or might not, have been handled with appropriate speed.

When they looked into the case afterwards – properly – there wasn’t all that much to it.

But the problem for Reynolds was a political one. The controversy erupted on the back of another case, that of the notorious paedophile priest, Brendan Smyth who had fled from Belfast to an abbey in Co Cavan in 1991, after the RUC tried to arrest him on charges of attempting to abuse four children in one family.

For three years, he had refuge in the Abbey while Irish authorities procrastinated on his extradition.

When the scandal over the delayed extradition erupted, Albert Reynolds and his then attorney general Harry Whelehan were caught in the crosshairs.

He managed to survive the political storm that ensued – just about.

So when news of another case – the Duggan case – was broken, Albert was a gonner. That despite the fact the Duggan case did not prove to be the sum of its parts at the end.

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

No election on the horizon – but no shortage of drama for all that

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Taoiseach Michéal Martin...relinquishing power by year-end.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

There are no elections on this side of the border in 2022 – besides one minor bye-election – but that’s not saying that the year will lack political drama. In truth – even outside of elections – we’ve had our share of drama on any number of political fronts, triggered by the Troika or Brexit and now Covid. Each in their turn dominated everything for a while, until they were normalised.

Right now it’s Covid. I don’t think people have exactly tired of the virus – more wishing that once this Omicron variant has passed through, that will be more or less that.

The Children’s Rapporteur was this week talking about the impact that long-term absence from school has had on children, especially those who live in poorer households, or face a vulnerable or volatile situation at home. At this stage, everybody wants it to come to an end.

Politically, the big event of 2022 will come right at the end of the year. For the first time ever, we will see the leader of one party relinquish the office of Taoiseach to give it to the leader of another party.

That those two parties are Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael has huge resonance. This year will see the 100th anniversary of the first Dáil and on the centenary there is something of a full circle going on when the two Civil War parties combine for the first time in their history.

Micheál Martin has maintained that he will stay on as Tánaiste after the changeover and continue as leader of Fianna Fáil. That is unlikely to happen. Fianna Fáil was meant to complete its recovery from the 2011 general election drubbing in 2020. That did not happen.

Instead it lost seven seats in the election and ended up the largest party by the skin of its teeth. That would not have happened if Sinn Fein had any idea beforehand that the election was going to be a bonanza not a blooper, and had decided to run a few more candidates.

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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