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Political World

Sinn Fein first out of the blocks as party think-ins signal start of political season

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Political World with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

At around this time each year all the political parties hold strategy meetings involving their TDs, senators and handlers. There are a few purposes to the meetings – all of them simple enough. It’s a chance for the parliamentary party to regroup after the Summer recess. The meetings allow them to identify priorities and strategies for the coming Oireachtas term.

And it also gives them a glorious opportunity to get largely uncritical media coverage, with the press office doling out a couple of ‘eye-opening initiatives’ and announcements for the top of the news bulletins and for next day’s paper.

The other thing that’s noteworthy about them is that most are held ‘away’ from the capital. The media, of course, have dubbed them think-ins. Or ‘drink-ins’ when chatting among themselves!

The two most memorable were – no surprise here – both associated with Fianna Fáil. The first was its meeting down in West Cork in 2004 when Bertie Ahern invited Fr Sean Healy (of Social Justice Ireland, then CORI) to address the troops.

Out of that after years of unbridled Charlie McCreevy individualism and capitalism, Ahern announced the Inchydoney Strategy, a U-turn for Fianna Fáil which was now embracing a more caring and sharing strategy. Of course, that didn’t happen and the new Minister Brian Cowen ‘kept her lit’ just like before, with terrible consequences.

The second featured Cowen himself in September 2010. The Fianna Fáil think-in that year was held in the Ardilaun Hotel on Taylor’s Hill in Galway City. Cowen and a bunch of his Dáil lobby buddies had stayed up very late one night – along with a fair smattering of journalists it must be said. The then-Taoiseach regaled the assembled crowd with a few good mimicked sketches and some rousing songs.

Problem was that he was on Morning Ireland the next morning sounding (and making as much sense) as a rusty door. When Simon Coveney tweeted that Cowen sounded hungover, it unleashed a media feeding frenzy that did immense damage to Cowen and his status as taoiseach. He may have felt hard done by, it but it was self-inflicted.

Anyway, it’s the season for them now and Sinn Féin was the first to kick off on Friday in Carlingford, Co Louth. The meeting had the ‘broaden your mind’ agenda that you find at such occasions. In this instance, they had invited two independent unionists to address the meeting and give their perspective on events in the North.

The media were allowed in for Gerry Adams’s opening address and he did a long doorstep interview beforehand. The two themes for public discussion were the two most topical – Sinn Féin’s approach to the October budget as well as the upcoming Seanad referendum, in which the party is advocating a ‘Yes’ vote.

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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