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Record budget spend but feelgood factor is missing

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Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe (left) and Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath.

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

Possibly not the best intro ever to a column but I’m going to start it this week with a moment of pure magic from the brilliant TV comedy series, The Royle Family.

It was when Jim’s daughter, Denise, and her husband David, decided to cook the Christmas dinner for the family. Needless to say, it was a disaster.

Anyway, Denise announced to all and sundry that the first course would be “‘Cup-a-Soup’ with a twist”.

“What’s the twist?” asked Jim.

“We are serving it in a bowl,” said Denise without missing a beat.

I’m sure by this stage you have guessed the segue.

Yep, what we got this week was a giveaway Budget, but one with a twist. And the twist was that even though Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath handed out more money than any other Budget in the history of the State, nobody felt like they were really getting anything. The feel-good factor was totally absent.

I’m long enough around the block to remember giveaway budgets in the old mode. Unsurprisingly, the most memorable ones occurred in election years. There was Charlie McCreevy’s in 2002 and Brian Cowen’s in 2007. They increased spending, reduced taxes and were designed to make everybody feel they were getting a few extra euro in their pocket.

And of course, both of them were election budgets. Bertie Ahern’s famous comment of the time summed up the outlook back then: “The Boom is getting Boomier.”

Now we seem to be on the other end of the cycle. Unemployment is worse than it was in the recession a decade ago, worse than it was in the dark and dismal days of the early to-mid- 1980s. But there is no talk now of us living beyond our means or having to tighten our belts. That conversation will take place sometime in the future. There was no talk either or taxes being lowered, or USC being changed, or Leo Varadkar rewarding those who get up early in the morning.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Armed Garda unit involved in five-hour stand-off

Francis Farragher

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A siege-type situation that developed at a house in Connemara was brought to a peaceful conclusion by Gardaí after a five-hour stand-off.

The Connacht Tribune understands that the Gardaí had been trying to execute a bench warrant in relation to the arrest of a woman in her 30s.

However, when Gardaí called to a house at Bealadangan near Leitir Mór at around 9pm on the Wednesday night of last week – where they had established the woman was located – they failed to gain entry despite repeated requests.

Gardaí were concerned that the woman may have been armed, leading to the call-out of the Garda Armed Support Unit.

The stand-off is understood to have lasted for about five hours but came to a conclusion at around 2am on the morning of October 15, when a specialist Garda unit forced their way into the house – the woman, who was alone in the house, was then arrested by the Gardaí.

Inspector Peter Conlon, confirmed to the Connacht Tribune that a stand-off situation that had developed in the Bealadangan area had been brought to a peaceful conclusion.
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Connacht Tribune

77-year-old Peadar in training for his 41st Dublin City Marathon

Francis Farragher

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Peadar Nugent pictured with Máire Treasa Beatty after collecting their medallions on completion of the 40th Dublin City Marathon in October, 2019. They are now gearing up for the 41st virtual running of the event on Sunday week next.

The show must go on – even if it’s the Dublin City Marathon, you’re 77-years old, and you have to fast-walk the event on the roads surrounding the fields of Athenry.

Peadar Nugent from Moyvilla, Derrydonnell, does intend to retire from the marathon circuit. But not just yet. He’s planning to hold on for another three years, until he reaches his 80th birthday.

Not for one moment did Peadar have any doubts over participating in his 41st successive Dublin City Marathon, once he knew for definite that the event was going ahead – in virtual format.

The virtual bit means that the marathon field will run their 26 miles and 285 yards in their home areas all across Ireland and be satellite tracked on their mobile phone or Garmin devices.

Despite shoulder, hip and knee surgeries down through the years, Peadar is one of an elite group of 13 athletes who has managed to complete all 40 of the Dublin City Marathons.

Those surgeries and an osteoarthritis diagnosis haven’t diminished Peadar’s enthusiasm for the road by one whit – although he has heeded the surgeon’s advice to walk, rather than run the event, over recent years.

“In previous years, I’ve come in around the five hours and 20 or so minutes mark (roughly 12 minutes a mile) but that’s with a big crowd around and the atmosphere of the occasion.

“This year [the October Bank Holiday Weekend], I’ll be walking it around my own area along with fellow Athenry club member, Máire Treasa Beatty, and I’m hoping to come in at six hours – or maybe just a bit under,” Peadar told the Connacht Tribune this week.

Needless to say, Peadar lives a healthy life. He never drank nor smoked and has hardly ever missed a morning in his life without his usual breakfast – a big bowl of porridge.

“Even on marathon days, my diet has never changed. The bowl of porridge is the perfect food for the marathon – you’re not too full and yet it sustains you.

“During the races themselves, it’s just a case of regular water intakes and about half-way through, one banana. The banana is easy to absorb and it helps to replenish the sugar levels,” said Peadar.

(Photo: Peadar Nugent pictured with Máire Treasa Beatty after collecting their medallions on completion of the 40th Dublin City Marathon in October, 2019. They are now gearing up for the 41st virtual running of the event on Sunday week next).
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Health official worried Galway reaching Covid crisis point

Dara Bradley

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Coronavirus has ripped through Galway, with an ‘explosion’ of positive cases among the 18-24 age group, as the threat of infection moves ‘closer to home’.

A total of 400 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Galway in a fortnight; 264 of them came in the seven days to Sunday October 11, the worst week on record, when a new daily high for confirmed cases was set.

Among the new cases were staff and children of a city crèche, and an outbreak associated with GAA county final celebrations in Moycullen.

Dr Breda Smyth, Director of Public Health in the West, said there has been a “dramatic increase” in infected young people, which “is a cause for concern”.

She said that the virus was “coming closer to home” for everyone because compared with the Spring, now “we all know of cases within our social networks, or within our communities”.

Wave one in March and April primarily impacted an older demographic and healthcare workers. This second wave is different, with a surge in infection among young people in particular. This has been developing since mid-September, but is not confined to third level students.

“What we’re seeing now, is people who are vulnerable realise that and are protecting themselves more than they did earlier. We are seeing this explosion in infection in the younger population and I think it’s really important that they are mindful of the effect of that.

“We have a young population from 18-24, maybe just thinking that ‘I’m not going to get that sick’. But if they have a part-time job they must remember they could be positive and not know it and bring it into that setting, a restaurant, a bar, a childcare facility, a nursing home. They may be positive because of their activities over the weekend and not know it, because 40% of cases are asymptomatic and they could be spreading it,” she said.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the latest facts and figures on Covid-19 in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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