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Shatter just the latest to discover that sorry seems to be the hardest word

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You could never imagine Alan Shatter play a certain role in that drama about Tom Crean that seems to be on an endless run in Irish theatres – you know, the young officer who turns around to Crean and says something which he never heard an officer say before: “Sorry, I made a mistake.”

Shatter does many things. He does a competent and reforming Minister for Justice very well. He does energy and intellect. He does arrogance to a sublime degree. He does gloating superiority superbly. He does goading and hectoring and barracking like an old pro.

What he does not do is apologise. Never. Ever. Ever.

So it was no surprise then that after making deeply inappropriate use of confidential information about the independent Wexford TD Mick Wallace on Prime Time this time last week, he has spend the guts of the week making even longer, more elaborate and more self-serving explanations to justify it.

If journalists and political opponents had hoped to extract some kind of grudging apology from him, they were in for a shock – many doses of prolonged verbal waterboarding later from the Minister, and he is even more adamant in defending himself. 

So let’s put it into context. There were two Garda whistle-blowers who accessed the Pulse system and extracted information to show that thousands of penalty points had been quashed on the orders of senior Garda officers.

One of the Gardaí approached the independent TD for Dublin North, Clare Daly, who along with three other independent Deputies set up a campaign to highlight the issue.

The central allegations were that the system was being widely abused – that people were getting their points quashed because they were Gardaí, relatives of Gardaí, friends of Gardaí and well known figures in Irish society including sportspeople, journalists and judges. There were also allegations that some people who had points forgiven were later involved in serious or fatal accidents.

From a credibility point of view, there were some difficulties with the campaign, some of which were apparent from the start; others that became discernible at a later stage.

For one, Mick Wallace’s halo had long been dislodged since his status as an unpaid tax defaulter came to light.

Daly and Joan Collins availed of parliamentary privilege to disclose the names of a number of those who had points quashed including a judge, Mary Devins, rugby player  Ronan O’Gara and crime journalist Paul Williams.

The campaign was holed under the water line when it came to light that one of the campaigning TDs Luke Ming Flanagan had himself successfully canvassed to have two penalty points quashed for using a mobile phone while driving – after he wrote to local Gardaí saying he was on the way to the Dail.

What the hell was he thinking? It really robbed the campaign of any lingering credibility.

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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