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Sinn Féin look set to be the big winners in our patched-up European constituency

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

One of the things I have never been able to understand about American professional sport is the concept of the moveable franchise.

There was a baseball team that was based in New York that were known as the Brooklyn Dodgers. A commercial decision by its owners saw the team transfer to the west coast to become the LA Dodgers. You wonder what the fans who had followed the team in Brooklyn do – did they remain loyal even though the franchise had moved 3,000 miles or did they begin supporting another New York team.

On this side of the Atlantic, such a stunt would be unthinkable. In Britain, some of its professional football teams have been global brands but there is still an iron-clad connection with the place where they originated. Over here in Ireland, sense of place is cemented more rigidly still into the public consciousness – if you are born in Mayo, it is highly unlikely you will be spotted wearing a Supermacs geansaí anytime soon.

I have huge difficulties with the manner in which the four European constituencies were carved into three ‘super constituencies’. The Dublin constituency is an acceptable compromise. A third of the population live there. You get a sense of its geography, that it is a logical entity. As for the other two, it’s just bunkum. The South and East consists of ten counties – the five of Munster and five from south Leinster. And then there is Midlands North-West which has all the organisation and consistency and logic of a blob of goo.

Here we have fifteen counties from three provinces. Sure Ireland is a small country. But still it just does not make sense. There might be a marginal case for including Longford on the basis of it once being half of the Longford-Roscommon constituency. But even then it was an unhappy and heterogenous alliance. Albert Reynold’s chief fixer Mickey Doherty pointed to the River Shannon as being the Berlin Wall between both sides of the constituency. His famous description of it was: “Votes don’t swim”.

There might be a marginal case also for Offaly, which at least borders Galway. But what about Meath, Louth, Kildare and Laois. Why not throw in Wexford, the Isle of Man and Rockall while we are at it.

The Greens had a suggestion – and it was shared by others – that Ireland should be treated as a single constituency with the 11 seats decided in a national contest. That, to me, would be an attractive option and would mark the European elections out as different and distinct from other elections. I’m sure there would be a fair geographic spread of candidates and each would have a mandate of representing Ireland, not a strange amalgam of random counties that you have difficulty getting your head around.

The decision is made and we have to live with it. Midlands North West. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Confuses. Exasperates. Muddles up!

In any instance, it will still give us an election. And if there is one thing about a popularity contest, it will always attract interest and intrigue, even if it’s for the chair of the local residents’ association.

Even without the senseless new constituency arrangement, a European election is harder to predict than general elections. The reason is slightly counterintuitive. It’s because so darned little hangs on them. Unlike a general election, where the people is choosing who they would prefer to run the country, Europe remains a topic of spectacular boredom and intense indifference to most people.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Housing policy can make or break Fianna Fáil’s future

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Faded glory...the Corrib Great Southern Hotel.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

When you approach Galway City from the east, you come across it as soon as you clear Merlin Park – standing out like a sore thumb; a sentinel warning us that buildings like humans fall victim to the ravages of time and to fortune.

The Corrib Great Southern Hotel is the city’s biggest eyesore and has been for many years. It’s a huge hulk of a building; vacant for many years, heavily vandalised, its windows smashed or boarded-up, its once-pristine grounds now overgrown.

Built in 1970, it’s long way away from its heyday when, in an era of optimism, it became the CIE-owned Great Southern Hotel Group’s most modern hotel.

We were kids when it was operating fully and it seemed to be thriving, as a hotel, wedding venue and for dinner dances.

All of that seems a long time ago now. The hotel has been vacant for a hell of a long time (since 2007) and in a way has become a symbol of Galway’s housing crisis.

All the more so because it stands across a roundabout from the gleaming new Garda headquarters and also the wonderfully revamped GMIT.

It’s been due for demolition for a long time and has been on the derelict site register since 2015 – but no action has been taken despite statutory orders on the registered owners.

In one way, the hotel is a symbol of the inertia of successive governments in tackling the housing crisis in Ireland. The inaction in relation to it is replicated across the board in Galway and in all other Irish counties.

The roots of the current housing crisis have its beginnings in the Celtic Tiger years when local authorities stopped developing their own housing and left it to the private market.

A big part of the strategy was Part V housing, where developers had to earmark ten per cent of all new developments for social housing.

The second hammer blow was the recession. When the money ran out after 2009, one of the first casualties was capital funding for housing.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Labour’s awakenings will take time to reap any real reward

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Passing of the baton...Michael D Higgins with his successor Derek Nolan at the Galway West count at Leisureland.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The film Awakenings was based on the experience of the psychiatrist Oliver Sacks with patients who had contracted a disease called encephalitis lethargica during and shortly after World War I.

Thousands contracted it around the world. How they got it has remained a mystery but it could have been connected to the Spanish Flu outbreak at the time.

It essentially left them in a catatonic state, sleeping, unmoving, like zombies for decades. By the time Sacks came across a group of them in New York, they were all residents of an institution called the Beth Abrams Home for the Incurable.

That did not leave much to the imagination. Some of these people had been essentially sleeping for over 40 years.

He experimented with a drug called L-dopa, which had been used successfully for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.

The effect was extraordinary; the drug was like an electric shock that jolted the patients back to life and to sentient existence.

The ‘miracle’ had its drawbacks, however. After a while, it became difficult to control the patients as they became increasingly manic. Ultimately a tough decision was taken to withdraw the drug and the patients relapsed into their catatonic states.

All of that is a bit of a stretched way of saying ‘flash in the pan’, but life sometimes teaches us that success can be very temporary indeed.

There is a long pattern in Irish politics, for example, of a winner in a by-election going on to win a seat in the subsequent general election. However, less than six months after winning a by-election in Wexford, Malcolm Byrne of Fianna Fáil got turfed out in the general election.

Look at it the other way. Sinn Féin were the big losers of the 2019 local elections but turned the ship around completely less than nine months later. The lesson to be learned is success or failure is never a permanent phenomenon in politics.

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

Changing political landscape fast becoming Double Dutch

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Big winner...Ivan Bacik after her by-election victory.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Holland is so used to enduring a perennial political log-jam – where every election just digs you deeper and deeper into a rut – that they’ve actually come up with their own name for it.

It’s called Dutchification – when society has become so urbanised, and globalised, and fragmented, and lacking cohesion, that no party, or parties, can expect to win any more.

The former RTÉ journalist Peter Cluskey wrote a very interesting article last week about this continued electoral limbo they have in Holland, where he’s been based for many years.

And truth be told, the same is happening here; the day of overall majorities is long gone.

We have gone from having two large parties to having three medium sized ones (and with the demise of Fianna Fáil it could even by two medium sized ones, or one large and one medium).

The reality is that it will be difficult for the foreseeable future for any two parties to form a coalition, and it could be difficult for any three parties to do the same.

The old fealties to the three long-established parties have been blown out of the water.

The biggest pool of voters now has no permanent loyalty. They are the floaters.

And there is a growing ‘none of the above’ contingent too, possibly spurred on by the cynicism, empty populism and downright lies, of social media.

They will vote for a party that opposes the government. And once that party they support goes into government, they immediately withdraw their support for it. Short of coming up for an elixir that guarantees everlasting joyous life, these voters will never support a party in government.

I know it sounds cynical but if you talk to enough people around the country – as I always try to do – the person with a deeply cynical disposition and a hate of politicians is no longer a rarity.

Sinn Féin is the growing party at the moment and – from this vantage point – looks like it will be in government for the next spin.

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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