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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

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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