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Presidential Referendum really just a red herring

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President Michael D Higgins coming home after his election as President - but will it be open to a much younger candidate this time?

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

It is almost certain that three referendums that have been proposed by this Government during its term of office will have been rejected by the people.

They were the proposal to give parliamentary inquiries more power; the plan to abolish the Seanad; and the silly referendum on reducing the eligible age of a Presidential candidate from 35 to 21 (with everything else going on in the world, they could surely have thought of something less, well, trivial).

The question is – will the people reject a fourth referendum, namely the referendum on same-sex marriage this weekend.

At this stage the evidence and data suggests not. The gap looks a little too wide. That said, there have been dramatic swings in the last week of a lot of election and referendum campaigns that opinion polls have not picked up. In addition to that, opinion polls get things wrong.

A really good example of a late intervention was when five or six former Attorneys General wrote a letter expressing their concern at the powers that parliamentarians would have if the inquiries referendum were to pass.

The stock of politicians was on the floor at the time. The public took note of the concerns and were damned if they were going to give any more powers to those untrustworthy TDs and Senators.

The rule of thumb is that a closer to polling day an opinion poll is taken, the more accurate it is. For example, last December, 80 per cent of people polled said they supported same-sex marriage.

That figure had to be taken with a large grain of salt. For one, a lot of those asked had not really thought about it and gave an answer that was almost arbitrary, or answered what they thought might be the ‘right’ answer without even thinking about it.

Closer to polling day, when they have thought about it, their voting intention might very well change. So the polls are usually not too far wrong.

But often they fail to pick up late swings. Opinion polls also fail to pick up what are known as ‘shy voters’ – those who vote for an issue or for a party but won’t admit it publicly.

In addition to that, far more people tell pollsters they will vote than actually do. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Many of those who say they will vote don’t turn up, especially for second-tier elections.

One of the fears of Yes campaigners in the same-sex referendum is that the young won’t vote – especially the youngest 18-24 age group.

That group is the strongest supporter of a Yes vote (with 71 per cent in favour). Yet it is also the group that votes in the lowest percentage.

By contrast, the age group that is most strongly opposed to change is the over 65 age group, where only 34 per cent is in favour. Unlike their young counterparts, this group tends to vote in large numbers.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Sinn Féin will discover power brings evolution not revolution

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Taoiseach in waiting?...Mary Lou McDonald with Galway West TD Mairead Farrell on the streets of Galway.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sinn Féin is not like any other party; even when it enjoyed only a fraction of the support of the SDLP it was still attracting the attention of the world media. During the 1980s and 1990s, just about the only Irish political figure American political journalists could name was Gerry Adams.

There was something about Sinn Féin that set it apart – that smell of cordite was catnip for the media.

So the party is viewed through a different lens than, say, the Labour Party, or the Social Democrats, or even the Greens. It carries original sin in the eyes of a portion of the electorate (generally older) who see its association with violence (which included many egregious murders and massacres) as unforgivable for all time.

For others, the passage of time has taken some of the sharp edges away. For the rest, specifically those born after the 1994 ceasefire, that is just not relevant to their lives. For some of those who remember those years, that attitude of younger voters is hard to stomach. But that’s the reality of how things stand just now.

I was always taken by the phrase of the late historian Ronan Farren that the birth certificates of all nations are blood-soaked. The fact of the matter is that Sinn Féin has been in from the cold for 25 years almost, accepting that it would strive to achieve its goals by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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.

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

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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