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Sinn Fein on track for big gains – but not for government

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Sinn Fein did very well in the recent local elections, but is it ready for government?

It’s a quieter time of year and I suppose you get a little bit more room for reflection.

Since May, everybody has been talking about the rise in Sinn Féin and I suppose their success in both the European and local elections signalled the fact it has arrived as a major force in southern politics.

The party is still in third place and will probably remain in that position after the next General Election.

In the long term, however, many are convinced that Sinn Féin will eclipse one of the two major parties (and Fianna Fáil looks the more likely at this stage), forcing them into a coalition.

Leo Varadkar, the big star of the Coalition at the moment, said after the May elections that the next General Election in 2016 would be a battle between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin.

It’s not that they will battle it out to the death. It’s just that the big ideological debates in the election campaign will boil down to clashes on the views espoused by Fine Gael and Sinn Féin.

Fianna Fáil and Labour will be generally seen as being close to the Fine Gael camp, except for a number of small but significant issues (Fianna Fáil in particular is closer to Sinn Féin on the national question – marginally closer only – and is very close to Sinn Féin when it comes to Irish language policies).

How well will the party do? If things don’t change dramatically over the next 18 months, fabulously. It’s going to be in contention for multiple seats in constituencies where the party is strong.

You can take it that Sinn Féin will take two seats in Donegal, Louth, Cavan-Monaghan and maybe a constituency like Dublin South-West. They have an outside chance of taking three out of five in one or two constituencies.

And they could take seats in a rake of constituencies where they had a pimple of a presence as recently as 2011 – Galway West is now a definite target.

The party has established an identity as the main out-and-out Opposition party, with a consistent anti-austerity message.

You see a lot of the moves and you wonder for if Sinn Féin really believes its own rhetoric (hmmm, a tough one, I’ll come back to you on that in future) or is just being cynical. Of course, there’s cynicism and opportunism there but it’s no different to any of the other parties.

Bertie Ahern was right in 2005 when he said it would take 20 years for it to complete the same journey as the Workers Party did. The party still has the discipline instilled from the military past. Its representatives are always on message.

It went to the point of farce when it actually came up with a whipped party viewpoint on the Garth Brooks concert. It has a lot of bright people but some are pretty hardline. It has more people working for the party (61) centrally than any of the other parties and the majority of its 150-plus councillors will be full-timers giving fealty to the party over any job or career.

Just as Varadkar has magically assumed an image as a straight talker, Sinn Féin has garnered an image of a possible alternative government.

Its opponents said that being in power in local authorities would remove a lot of its bite. But local government is second-tier and if things go wrong you can always blame central government.

I’d be surprised if Sinn Féin get really punished or tested in 2016.

Despite the change of leadership, Labour, like all minority coalition parties, will struggle to contain its losses. Fine Gael will lose seats too. Fianna Fáil will gain but not as solidly as seemed maybe a year ago (the party is a little becalmed at present, as the great Éamon Ó Cuív might put it).

Sure, some of the splinter parties will make modest gains, and the Reform Alliance may gouge at the edges of Fine Gael.

But the big winners will be Sinn Féin. People vote with their pockets in general elections.

Sure, Sinn Féin will find its pretty unconvincing economic policies subject to very rigorous scrutiny. If the answer to the Hillary Clinton question of ‘who do you call at 3am when the economy is on the verge of collapse’ is Sinn Féin, you might start to worry a little.

For more from Harry McGee see this week’s Tribunes

Connacht Tribune

Greens set the bar high on seats for next local elections

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Eamon Ryan...brave ambitions.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

There we all were thinking the Greens were going to repeat what happened a decade ago and lose most, or all, of their seats in the next election. But then Eamon Ryan told the party’s annual convention last weekend that he wanted the party to grow and increase seats.

He even put a target on it – to double its number of council seats from 50 to 100 at the next local elections in 2024.

It’s a brave claim and there will be some that say the only target we see is the one on Eamon Ryan’s back.

We all know the fate of smaller parties in government in Ireland. And none should know it better than the Greens. They won six seats in 2007 and lost them all in 2011.

Of course, there were extenuating circumstances. They were unlucky enough to be tacked onto a Fianna Fáil party which had pumped up the economy to bulbous levels in the decade before they went into coalition together.

The only party to buck the trend for a smaller party coming out of coalition was the Progressive Democrats in 2002. However, that was only a reprieve; they were s annihilated in the following election in 2007.

Ryan’s argument is that there is always a percentage of the population who will back Green first and it is growing. That is true. But the reality is it’s not ten per cent of the population yet – it is closer to five. And that five per cent is concentrated in middle class urban areas.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Only sure thing in politics is nothing stays the same

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Galway in the 1950’s – how different is this to today.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

In less than a month’s time we will witness a first in Irish politics – the first instance of a Government which rotates its Taoiseach half way through the term.

It was due to happen on December 15, but it has been pushed back to allow Micheál Martin have his last hurrah – a final Summit in Brussels.

Then Leo Varakdar will come back for his second go – and if the Government lasts a full term, Varadkar’s two stints in the job will use about amount to one full term of five years.

It’s not the first time that a shared Taoiseach has been floated. Dick Spring suggested it to John Bruton in 1994. There was talk of Eamon Gilmore doing it with Enda Kenny before the 2011 general election. Enda Kenny suggested it to Micheál Martin in 2016.

Now it’s happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last time we will see it in the Irish political context – because the political landscape has altered irrevocably.

A majority of voters in Ireland identified with one tribe or another during most of the 20th century. Memories of the revolution and civil war were still fresh. The parties both represented different sections of society (although there were big swatches of common ground). Ireland was rural, isolated, Catholic, conservative. Even in the 1980s, the two big parties still pulled 80 per cent plus of the vote.

We have a WhatsApp group from my class in the Jes in the 1980s. One of the lads recently posted an aerial photography of Galway taken in the the late 1950s. The city of Galway was nothing more than small town.

Shantalla was a new estate on the far outskirts. There was no Cathedral. Taylor’s Hill was hitting open countryside once you got past St Mary’s Terrace. There were open fields leading from Sea Road down to the shore.

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

Tackling shadowy spectre of gambling at long last

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Salthill's entertainment hot spot of the 1960s and 70s, Seapoint.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The Salthill seafront was about a ten-minute walk from where we lived in Glenard when I was growing up. I can’t remember exactly when I started going to the amusement arcades but I was probably about 14.

At the time there were three or four along the so-called Golden Mile – Salthill Amusements near Western House; Claude Tofts casino in the middle of the drag, and the Silver Dollar, which was just before you turned for the Sacre Coeur Hotel. And then there was Seapoint.

The main attractions for us initially were the snooker tables upstairs in Salthill amusements, the roller disco on the Silver Dollar, and the teenage discos in the Captain’s Deck in Leisureland.

Mostly it was playing the video games – Space Invaders; Asteroids and Pacman. Yet no matter how absorbed you were with the games  you could not help noticing the other half of the arcade.

On that side there were battalions of one-armed bandits and poker machines. This was the early 1980s and I think it was about 10p a go. I think if you got one cherry on the right you won about 20p, and the amount of winnings went up especially if you got three bars in a row.

I’m not saying I never gambled on those machines. I did, although not too often. I remember having one big payout – I think it might have been £20. I was able to buy a ticket for the Dexy’s Midnight Runners concert in Seapoint.

It was July. Gino was actually number one in the charts that very week and all the Northerners were down in Salthill to escape the Orange marches.

We hung around the amusements a bit as teenagers. After a while, you began to recognise the regulars, the daily penitents. They would come in every afternoon and evening and spend hours sitting on a high school with a bucket of coins beside them, playing either the one-armed bandits or the poker machines.

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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