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Rebel Keaveney may not be the last of the disenchanted to join the Soldiers of Destiny

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

Colm Keaveney’s decision to join Fianna Fáil last week was – to put it at its very mildest – took us all by surprise. The first I heard about it was about 8.50am on Tuesday morning when RTE’s Morning Ireland phoned me to say that the story was trending on Twitter and would I mind coming on to talk about it.

I made a few frantic phone calls to senior Fianna Fáil people I knew but none were able to confirm. Twitter is grand but it’s not the Oracle and I wasn’t going to go onto national radio and confirm it on the back of a couple of tweets. So it was a very conditional interview…full of ‘on the one hand’ and ‘on the other hand’ get out clauses.

I did say that if it were true it would be intriguing and almost sensational.

Five minutes after the programme went off air, one of the Fianna Fáil people came back to say it was true, and Keaveney would be joining the party that very day and he and Micheal Martin would be appearing on the plinth of Leinster House at lunchtime.

“Alea iacta est,” Keaveney had said when he decided to vote against his own party when the vote on social welfare measures came up after Budget 2012.

Its meaning is the die has been cast. It referred to the decision by Julius Caesar to cross the Rubicon, giving notice he was challenging the authority of the Empire to which he had sworn allegiance.

And now for a second time, Tuam’s own legionnaire was crossing the Rubicon, this time to rejoin the party with which he was associated as a young man.

Within minutes of the announcement, his former colleagues in the Labour Party were busy foraging through the archives, finding juicy comments by the same Colm Keaveney slating Fianna Fáil. They didn’t have to search too hard. There were many, including a few choice YouTube clips, and boy, did Keaveney go in hard on Fianna Fáil, accusing it of corruption, graft and the divil and all.

He stuck to the argument that Fianna Fáil had changed and was the only party to have learned from mistakes of the past. Did it sound hollow? Well, a little. You just couldn’t escape from the impression that for each party in the transaction, the other was a flag of convenience.

That said, Keaveney was a Fianna Failer in his youth, and even when he was involved in student politics. It could be that he is returning to the roost but he will need to show, in the immediate to medium term at least, that he is a party person first and foremost and is not likely go go on a solo run every time the ball is passed to him.

So what are the issues? Well, on a national level will it make a difference and is it the beginning of a trend? On a local level, how is it going to play in Galway East, both within Fianna Fáil and in the wider constituency?

Keaveney is a capable politician and there is no doubt that he is more interested and involved in policy than many of his fellows. He has also shown a high degree of skill in building up a base in Galway East from nothing that brought him a Dail seat in the 2011 election.

In the past few days, there have been rumours that other TDs and Senators may follow Keaveney into Fianna Fáil. Those who have been mentioned include the Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín – who is out of favour and out of sorts with Sinn Féin – and two independent TDs Peter Mathews in Dublin South and Stephen Donnelly in Wicklow.

The over-loquacious Mathews tends to dominate every meeting he goes and has rubbed a lot of his fellow colleagues up the wrong way by not being able to know when it is more politic to be silent. That said, he has a political cache, and would be a credible candidate for Fianna Fáil in the European elections. If he won, the party would have a fighting chance of winning the bye-election.

Donnelly is a very bright and articulate Deputy – and, yes, he’s not shy about letting you know about that – but he would be a big prize for Fianna Fáil who would elevate him immediately. The party has no seat in Wicklow at present and that would be an extra bonus.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Politics and law have been entwined through the ages

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Seamus Woulfe...at the centre of latest storm.

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

I remember when I was a kid there was an Irish rugby tour to apartheid South Africa which caused a huge furore, including a (if I remember correctly) a shouty row on The Late Late Show. One of the arguments used by those favouring the tour was: “Sports and politics should not mix.”

It went down well as a sound bite but was a nonsense; the reality is that politics mixes with everything, including sports. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

Politicians make decisions over how sport is funded, how it is governed and regulated (look at the recent row over John Delaney’s tenure), and sometimes when it can be played.

All sports organisations have their own internal politics which can be more vicious than the stuff that goes on in Leinster House. And political parties have long ago discovered the benefits of putting a high profile former sportsperson up as a candidate.

Which brings us onto the bigger issue: the separation of powers in the State. Our Constitution draws out a relationship between the three arms of State – the Executive (government), Judiciary and Parliament (the Oireachtas). The impression that has been handed down to us is they are three goldfish in different bowls, all swimming, but in different waters.

It just doesn’t work out like that in real life. For one, for most of the history of the State, parliament has essentially been a chattel of government, with no real separate powers of its own.

In recent years, with less stable majorities for government than in the past, that relationship has changed – but parliament is still very much subservient to central Government.

It’s not just lip service when it comes to relationships with the legal establishment. There is an effort to assert that they operate in separate spheres but real life often intrudes – it’s more or less impossible to maintain the divide, unless you do it artificially.

For one, it is politicians who appoint judges, not other judges. Now, of course, judges have a say in it. There is the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) which assesses the merits of lawyers who are not yet judges.

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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Biden brings normality back to world’s most powerful office

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US President-elect Joe Biden celebrates his victory with his wife Jill and his Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris.

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

I did not want to make the same mistake I made four years ago. Then I stayed up until about 1.30am and it looked like it was going okay for Hillary Clinton in Florida. So I said to myself, that big buffoon is done for. When I woke up the next morning Donald Trump was the President of the United States. He had somehow managed to win Florida and dismantled the Blue Wall of Democrat States in the Mid-West by taking Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

This time I stayed up until 4.30 in the morning. And that was a mistake too. For the picture was as unclear then as it was 12 hours later.

It was too close to call but already commentators were talking of a red mirage; most on-the-day voters plumped for Trump but early voters – whose votes were counted last – had steered very sharply towards Joe Biden.

It was historic. It’s really hard to knock out an incumbent president seeking a second term. It had been done only eight times before that in two and a half centuries.

Was it his inept handling of Covid-19? Had people grown sick of his vanity and his self-serving boasts? Did this natural disruption just cause too much turmoil and uncertainty in people’s lives? Did his partisan views, that red-mist madness, repel more than it attracted?

Well, the evidence is in the poll. The answer to all those questions is yes. To me, the outcome was clear. Biden won the popular votes. He also won the electoral colleges.

The majority was small and reflects a very divided society. Trump is the champion of rural, less educated, blue collar white, conservative, Hispanic and white America. Biden is popular among the middle classes, the urbanites, the better educated, and black voters.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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

Leo has to take his medicine after debacle over leak to GPs

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Words of comfort...it's a big week for Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and US President Donald Trump.

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

It’s the first week in quite a while that Covid-19 has been knocked from the top slot in politics by other events and controversies. For it to happen, it’s taken no less than polling day in a US presidential election (which we will come back to later) and Leo Varadkar getting snared in a trap of his own making. With friends like his who needs enemies?

What has played out over a few days this week in the Dáil is a procession or ritual that has become familiar to anyone who knows how our form of parliamentary politics works.

A political storm erupts involving an office holder.

Government colleagues rush in to defend the Minister.

Opposition TDs rifle the thesaurus entries for ‘scandal’ and ‘outrage’.

The Minister makes a statement in the Dáil.

If it is immediately serious – corruption, a blatant lie, bullying or harassment, a serious breach of a law or code – the Minister is a goner.

If it is less so, the Minister will survive with his or her reputation diminished.

Unless of course, there is more and the Minister can’t just draw a line under it. If they accumulate headlines over a week, that also spells curtains.

We have seen Ministers like Alan Shatter, Frances Fitzgerald, Barry Cowen and Denis Naughten fall on their swords.

At this vantage point ahead of the Dáil debate, it looks like there is zero possibility that Varadkar will resign; he’s going to ship political damage though, that’s for sure.

For one, his apology needs to be a bit more contrite than the mealy-mouthed explanation at the weekend that his manner of dealing with it “could have been better”.

There was an embarrassment of Fine Gael Ministers (all five senior Ministers plus a couple of junior ministers) falling over themselves this week to defend the Tánaiste’s honour.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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