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Political World

Reflecting on elections on eve of another drama

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A section of the exhibition of political posters and ephemera entitled 'Promises, Promises' at the Kenny Art Gallery in the Liosbán Retail Park. The exhibition features older posters, fliers and handouts from National, Local and European elections, and political and protest meetings. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

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

The first general election I covered was 27 years ago; I had just started work as a cub reporter on the Connacht Tribune when Charles Haughey collapsed the minority Fianna Fáil government and called a snap election in the hope that he’d come back with a majority.

It didn’t happen and Fianna Fáíl was forced into the unimaginable – a coalition with the Progressive Democrats led by Haughey’s nemises Desmond O’Malley.

Of course, my involvement in that campaign was local. I did spend a day canvassing with Máire Geoghegan Quinn in Knocknacarra where she was confronted by an army officer, whose pay had been cut during the recession and not restored.

I also did the usual stuff, went to the local markings and rallies of candidates, churned out the rhetoric in print almost as quickly and voluminously as it had been delivered orally.

The editor of The Connacht was the late John Cunningham who was obsessed with politics and could be bested by nobody when it came to local knowledge.

I was a city lad and our house had strong connections with Connemara. Even though I played lots of hurling and football then and knew most of the county through GAA or traveling with my father (he worked as an adviser with the Department of Agriculture in east Galway) I paid little heed to Galway East then.

Galway West was where it was at as far as I was concerned.

This general election campaign will be my seventh. All have been different, some more seismic than others.

I had moved to Dublin by the time of the 1992 election was called and was working for The Sunday Press. It happened in November and I remember the darkness and the rain.

For the count I was sent down to North Kerry where Dick Spring was the major domo. That weekend he led the Labour Party to its greatest victory, winning 33 seats and picking up wins in the most unexpected places.

One of those who came through in the Spring Tide was Mosajee Bhamjee, a South African-born psychiatrist based in Ennis, who had never expected in his wildest dreams to become a TD.

I did a long interview with Spring that night. He had been hyper critical (verging on cruel) of Fianna Fáil and its new leader Albert Reynolds during the campaign. Within weeks the parties were negotiating to go into government together.  By the time the 1997 election happened The Sunday Press was no more and I was working in the RTE newsroom as a reporter for Morning Ireland.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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.

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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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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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Connacht Tribune

Best of the bunch from 2021 across the political landscape

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Senator Lisa Chambers...good year for her.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

I happened to be doing the annual trawl through the national archives in the run-up to Christmas. And one of the things I came across was a discussion between Albert Reynolds and John Major in the mid-1990’s. The discussion was about Scottish devolution with the British Prime Minister saying he was not a fan of the electoral system they were plumping for in Edinburgh. Which was of course, proportional representation.

His objection? It did not give a clear outcome – or to be more brutal about it, a clear winner.

And that’s one thing that the first-past-the-post Westminster model does.

Proportional representation here produced clear winners for most of the past century. But that was because two parties dominated. Now, with a fragmented political landscape the norm of Irish politics, it’s never going to be like that again.

From time to time, we will have clear winners. But mostly we will have a fudge. Having lots of parties is not necessarily a bad thing. It will mean a lot of consensus and gradualism. And it will certainly make government-formation a complicated chess game in the future.

So, what was the best of politics in 2021 and who were the best politicians, and what were the worse political moments?

Biggest issue

Coronavirus in all its guises. Again. Will it be the biggest issue of 2022 as well? Certainly the second half.

Second biggest issue

Brexit…again. It’s never-ending. It’s worse than the Leaving Cert. And infinitely more boring.

Best Minister

There was no standout like Simon Harris during the early months of Covid-19 last year. That said, a good few Ministers got over their early nerves and had a good 2021.

Roderic O’Gorman made inroads in direct provision, came up with a redress scheme for mother and baby homes (imperfect but still an achievement). Helen McEntee, another new senior minister, came up with a lot of progressive legislation despite between taking six months out for maternity leave. Lately, she has come up with an amnesty for undocumented people in Ireland, long overdue.

Michael McGrath and Paschal Donohoe are solid operators, but neither is spectacular in terms of initiatives. Still, they have thrown Biblical amounts of money at Covid-19.

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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