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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

Best laid plans and programmes can fall foul of political reality

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Debate snub...Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

If architects’ plans were like the Programme of Government,

  1. the country would be full of unfinished buildings
  2. that would look nothing like the plans.

Prospective governments spend weeks – and sleepless nights – working out the programme that will be the blueprint for their term of office.

Some even produce a glossy self-congratulatory report each year, showing how many of its targets have been achieved.

Two things need to be said about that:

  1. They are subjective.
  2. Nobody outside the bubble pays any attention to them.

Some set out ambitious targets for the first 100 days of government. That idea has been around since the 1930s and is designed to show a signal of intent, that the new Government is going to put its money where its mouth is.

More often than not the new regime learns to its cost that it has bitten off more than it can chew. Achieving something in the world of politics within 100 days is like reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace during a lunch break.

  1. Not exactly impossible
  2. But not exactly possible

And do governments learn from these mistakes? Do they realise that it is a bit of a ridiculous concept?

  1. No
  2. No

There is a political problem here. You might achieve the big things in politics, you might get a wobbly economy back on to an even keel, you might create a historic record for employment, you might push through the six referendums you promised to liberalise society.

But it’s a bit like the guy who earns a reputation for not buying a round. No matter if he has devoted his life to the service of others, and has sacrificed everything for the personal good.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Politics and law have been entwined through the ages

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Seamus Woulfe...at the centre of latest storm.

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

I remember when I was a kid there was an Irish rugby tour to apartheid South Africa which caused a huge furore, including a (if I remember correctly) a shouty row on The Late Late Show. One of the arguments used by those favouring the tour was: “Sports and politics should not mix.”

It went down well as a sound bite but was a nonsense; the reality is that politics mixes with everything, including sports. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

Politicians make decisions over how sport is funded, how it is governed and regulated (look at the recent row over John Delaney’s tenure), and sometimes when it can be played.

All sports organisations have their own internal politics which can be more vicious than the stuff that goes on in Leinster House. And political parties have long ago discovered the benefits of putting a high profile former sportsperson up as a candidate.

Which brings us onto the bigger issue: the separation of powers in the State. Our Constitution draws out a relationship between the three arms of State – the Executive (government), Judiciary and Parliament (the Oireachtas). The impression that has been handed down to us is they are three goldfish in different bowls, all swimming, but in different waters.

It just doesn’t work out like that in real life. For one, for most of the history of the State, parliament has essentially been a chattel of government, with no real separate powers of its own.

In recent years, with less stable majorities for government than in the past, that relationship has changed – but parliament is still very much subservient to central Government.

It’s not just lip service when it comes to relationships with the legal establishment. There is an effort to assert that they operate in separate spheres but real life often intrudes – it’s more or less impossible to maintain the divide, unless you do it artificially.

For one, it is politicians who appoint judges, not other judges. Now, of course, judges have a say in it. There is the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) which assesses the merits of lawyers who are not yet judges.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Biden brings normality back to world’s most powerful office

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US President-elect Joe Biden celebrates his victory with his wife Jill and his Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris.

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

I did not want to make the same mistake I made four years ago. Then I stayed up until about 1.30am and it looked like it was going okay for Hillary Clinton in Florida. So I said to myself, that big buffoon is done for. When I woke up the next morning Donald Trump was the President of the United States. He had somehow managed to win Florida and dismantled the Blue Wall of Democrat States in the Mid-West by taking Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

This time I stayed up until 4.30 in the morning. And that was a mistake too. For the picture was as unclear then as it was 12 hours later.

It was too close to call but already commentators were talking of a red mirage; most on-the-day voters plumped for Trump but early voters – whose votes were counted last – had steered very sharply towards Joe Biden.

It was historic. It’s really hard to knock out an incumbent president seeking a second term. It had been done only eight times before that in two and a half centuries.

Was it his inept handling of Covid-19? Had people grown sick of his vanity and his self-serving boasts? Did this natural disruption just cause too much turmoil and uncertainty in people’s lives? Did his partisan views, that red-mist madness, repel more than it attracted?

Well, the evidence is in the poll. The answer to all those questions is yes. To me, the outcome was clear. Biden won the popular votes. He also won the electoral colleges.

The majority was small and reflects a very divided society. Trump is the champion of rural, less educated, blue collar white, conservative, Hispanic and white America. Biden is popular among the middle classes, the urbanites, the better educated, and black voters.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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